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The agreements in the WTO Uruguay Round came into effect on 1 January 1995. Many of the agreements foresaw an implementation period, including gradual reduction in import tariffs. Some countries, among them the USA, New Zealand and Norway, reduced their tariffs to the agreed level immediately. Others, like the EU, had a gradual reduction of their tariffs, fully implemented by 1999.

As the statistics available for this study were most of them no more recent than 1998, the Uruguay Round tariff reductions will not have had their full effect, so any analysis would be inconclusive. Furthermore, one of the largest import markets, the EU, has a substantial set of tariff quotas and preferential treatments through bilateral agreements. This distorts the findings.

In general, it seems that most of the trade today is conducted within the framework of regional trade agreements, although the rules of trade set in the Uruguay Round agreement provide the basis for many regional agreements. The bilateral or regional agreements are, however, usually more detailed and go further than the WTO agreements.

When dealing with countries outside regional agreements or bilateral agreements, the WTO agreements are usually the only legal frameworks regulating international seafood trade.

The trade policies in the largest import markets are very different. The USA and Japan have both generally low tariffs on not-prepared products, while prepared (value-added products) meet higher tariffs. The tariffs of the EU, in contrast, have traditionally been very high. Even after the Uruguay Round, the tariffs are high. But as there has been a reduction in the general level of tariffs, imports to the EU have increased. From the figures for each country chapter it was clear that the EU imports from all of the eight target countries, except from India, had increased from 1995 onwards. The general reduction in tariffs also affects the tariffs applied for countries with bilateral agreements with the EU, because the tariffs applied for preference origin are calculated from the base tariffs. The EU tariffs are still very high for many products, and escalate for value-added products.

11.1 Brazil

During the 1990s, Brazil experienced a decline in exports and an increase in imports. However, this does not seem to be a consequence of change in domestic supplies as the fluctuation in production follows the same pattern as the imports. That means no increase in the imports, even if production falters.

Brazilian imports increased from 1995 onwards. This coincided with the launch of the Uruguay Round agreements. However, as can be seen from the data, of the six most important trading partners, five are neighbouring South American countries, and 90% of Brazil’s imports come from this region. Argentina and Uruguay, the largest suppliers, are also co-members of MERCOSUR, the Southern Common Market. Goods from these countries had, from 1 January 1995, duty-free entry into Brazil. Thus one can assume that for the import of goods to Brazil, regional agreements have been far more important than global ones.

Brazilian exports go to countries outside the region, with 52% going to the USA alone, while 27% goes to Japan, 6% to the EU, 11% within South America and 6% to other countries. Both USA and Japan have a lower tariff regime after the Uruguay Round.

11.2 India

India is defined as a developing country and is therefore excepted from immediately implementing many of the agreements in the Uruguay Round. The tariffs are high and the non-tariff barriers are many. The import regime is strict and development in this area is slow.

There was a slight reduction in the tariffs towards the end of the 1990s. However, as a means for the government to increase income, tariffs were later increased again.

Indian imports consist mainly of meal and fish oil, as well as hilsa, a low value fish imported from Bangladesh.

Indian exports have increased and its products have mainly gone to Japan, Saudi Arabia and USA. Fresh, chilled or frozen fish and crustaceans are the main commodities. As the tariffs are lower on fresh, chilled and frozen products than on value-added products, the full potential for the industry is not exploited. The bulk of export value comes from crustaceans.

The impact of the Uruguay Round on Indian trade could be described as producing little change, despite the WTO Uruguay Round agreements.

11.3 Republic of Korea

As the economy of Republic of Korea (Korea) grew during the 1990s, so did international trade, including the fish trade. Exports were much higher than imports. Korea’s main trade partners were Japan, China, Thailand, USA, EU and Russia, for both imports and exports. In addition, Argentina is a major source for squid, cuttlefish, etc.

As Korea did not have an agreement with the EU, import tariffs were quite high on the main products exported to the EU, namely prepared and preserved fish. The WTO Uruguay Round had thus a big effect on the barriers into one of the biggest markets.

11.4 Mexico

Having one of the largest seafood importers as their closest neighbour, it is not surprising to find that most of Mexico’s exports have gone to the USA. During the 1990s, exports boomed from 1995 onwards. This is more likely a result of the launch of the NAFTA agreement rather than of the WTO Uruguay Round. Similarly, most of Mexico’s seafood imports originate in the USA.

11.5 New Zealand

New Zealand maintains an open trade and investment regime, but applies strict veterinary rules for imports. As primarily an exporting country, the WTO Uruguay Round agreements are of great importance in regulating trade with countries outside bilateral agreements. Total exports increased steadily during the whole decade, and one can not specifically claim that the Uruguay Round has made a big difference. There are, however, signs that some of the negotiated results have had an effect on specific products. Exports to the EU showed a significant increase from 1997 to 1998. This increase came mostly from mussels. This is one of the products that were specially negotiated in the WTO Uruguay Round.

11.6 Norway

For fish products, Norway is a net exporter to markets worldwide. As a member of EFTA, Norway has free trade agreements with several countries, and a preference agreement with the EU. As the EU is the most important market for Norway, this bilateral agreement is far more important than the Uruguay Round. However, as exports go to such a wide variety of countries, the WTO agreement is often the only legal framework for much of the trade. It is difficult to establish a definite link between the Uruguay Round agreement and the fact that Norway’s exports expanded and increased during the 1990s. Nevertheless, membership of the WTO makes the business more predictable as there are international rules governing much of the trade.

For fish products, Norway applied a liberal import regime before the Uruguay Round. The import duties are bound at zero. Domestic supplies, apart from tropical species and fishmeal, cover domestic demand for fish feed. Most of the import is thus for re-export. Exports are mostly value-added groundfish, or farmed salmon produced on partly imported fish feed.

Non-tariff barriers have hit salmon exports the hardest. Norwegian farmed salmon faces high tariffs in the USA, due to alleged dumping. This was also imminent in the EU, but the Government of Norway and the European Commission signed an agreement regulating salmon exports from Norway to the EU, with import restrictions and minimum prices, to avoid extra levies on Norwegian farmed salmon. This agreement was due to terminate in 2002, but looked set to be extended.

11.7 Poland

The substantial changes in the Polish political and economical situation from the late 1980s onwards led to a decline in production as Poland lost access to many fishing grounds. The prospective membership of the EU has also affected Polish trade policies. Further, Poland has a number of bilateral and a multilateral agreement with neighbouring countries and with its largest trading partners.

11.8 South Africa (The Republic of)

South African import policy became more liberal after 1994. This is a consequence of the government’s aim to increase international trade. Thus the liberalization within the WTO Uruguay Round is a continuing pursuit of an international legal framework that would help South Africa to reach its goal.

The unstable development in trade since 1991 seems to have derived more from supply levels than from trade regulations. There was, however, a general increase in exports from 1990 to 1998.

The EU has traditionally been the largest market for South African fish products, although it seems from the data that the imports to the EU from South Africa follow the same pattern as general seafood exports from South Africa. However, the development in exports to single countries within the EU varied substantially. While some countries had a tremendous increase in their imports from South Africa, others had a severe decline. As the EU is an important destination for fish products from South Africa, the general decline in EU tariffs seems to have had an effect on exports.

General seafood imports to South Africa towards the end of the decade were very low. As the government, as far as is known, has not implemented a stricter import regime, this decline in supplies has other causes.

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