WTO ‘Corn’ Dispute Revitalized

The Canadian Minister of International Trade (David Emerson) and the Minister of Agriculture, Agri-Food & the Canadian Wheat Board (Chuck Strahl), announced last week on Friday (8 June 2007) that Canada will now request that a WTO dispute settlement panel be established on the issue of US agricultural subsidies. After indicating their intention last month to hold off on the former maize subsidies case until December 2007, Canada made the surprise announcement on Friday that they are going to proceed with the official initiation of the subsidies case against the US now. They will make the official request to launch the WTO panel proceedings at the relevant WTO dispute settlement meeting next week, 20 June 2007. It is likely that a lacklustre trade outcome from the G8 summit, one that is unlikely to really spur the Doha talks, and the emerging of what seems to be a ‘business as usual’ new US Farm Bill, influenced this decision. The South African maize industry was very keen for the SA government to join the case in May, judging from a Chamber of Milling press release on the matter. It will thus be very interesting to see how South Africa proceeds at this juncture. Others with a maize interest or agricultural subsidies interest like the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Uruguay and Thailand have already indicated their participation in the WTO case at the consultations stage in January this year. South Africa did not join these countries at the time, but the current Canadian move now provides South Africa with a second opportunity to do likewise.