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WTO Members Behind In Their Books

Most members of the World Trade Organization are years behind in providing data about farm subsidies, essential to see whether they are sticking to agreements, an internal WTO document shows.

The document, prepared by the WTO secretariat for a meeting on Wednesday of its agriculture committee, which monitors adherence to agreements, shows that 81 of 153 members have so far not provided data for 2004 or earlier.

They include trading powers such as Argentina, China, Indonesia and India, which has not provided data on domestic support for 1998 onwards, and for exports subsidies for 2001 onwards.

Under WTO agreements, most members agree to limit how much they pay farmers to encourage them to grow food, and how much they support exports – the idea being to prevent distortions to world trade in food that would hurt farmers in countries that cannot afford subsidies.

The current Doha round of trade talks would limit domestic support still further and abolish export subsidies.

WTO members have to provide the organization, which acts as an umpire of the world trading system, with the amounts they are spending on subsidies to show whether they are honouring the agreements.

Subsidy data is now due for 2008, but only 17 countries have provided it, including Cuba, Ecuador and New Zealand. Another 15 countries are up to date with export subsidy information, including Argentina, China, Indonesia and Japan.

Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union and United States are behind on domestic support data and export subsidy information.

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