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Tariffs and Market Access

Tariffication, the conversion of nontariff barriers to equivalent bound tariffs, was one of the most important outcomes of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). The adoption of a tariffs-only approach for agriculture was a sweeping reform that went a long way toward subjecting agricultural trade to the same disciplines applied to other traded goods.

The Uruguay Round tariff reductions, along with the establishment of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs), increased market access for agricultural exports, but also left many high tariffs in place (see AoA Issues Series: Market Access: Tariffication and Tariff Reduction). Agricultural trade would benefit from reducing high tariffs, expanding and reforming TRQs, and improving the predictability of tariff protection.

In the Doha Ministerial Declaration, members committed to negotiations aimed at producing "substantial improvements in market access for all products." WTO members have agreed that tariff reductions will be made through a tiered tariff-cutting formula that takes into account their different tariff structures. Each country's tariffs will be structured into four tiers based on the height of each tariff, with each tier subject to a different percentage reduction. The overall objective of the tiered formula is to achieve a degree of harmonization of tariff structures across countries and products. This will be achieved through progressively deeper cuts on those tiers containing higher tariffs, with flexibilities for members to designate a limited number of Sensitive Products. Sensitive Products will be subject to lower reduction commitments, but with some additional TRQ commitments required to assure that substantial improvements in market access will be achieved for all products.

Concerning "special and differential treatment for developing countries," there is agreement that developing countries' tariffs will be subject to lesser cuts than developed countries' tariffs and they will be given more time to implement these cuts. There is also agreement that developing countries will be able to designate a limited number of products as Special Products, which would be subject to either no or lesser tariff cuts.

See the AoA Tariffs and Market Access section of the recommended readings page for more information regarding tariff and market-access issues related to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

Other Agreement on Agriculture Issues:

Last updated: Monday, June 04, 2012

For more information contact: John Wainio

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