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Main policy areas


Tariff quota administration

  • TRQs are applied by a number of countries (including the Czech Republic, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States) where, in general, they tend to restrict trade. Furthermore, in some cases, problems in the administration of the quotas contributed to quotas not being filled fully. In China, where TRQs will be introduced for the first time in 2002, the quotas are expected to create new, very important market access opportunities especially with regard to vegetable oils;
  • Restrictive or insufficiently transparent administration methods have been reported for some countries (preferential allocation to/by state trading enterprises).


  • During the last few years, several developing countries tended to increase border protection (mainly by raising tariffs) in an effort to shield domestic industries from international competition - which started increasing in 1998, when international market prices commenced a marked and steady decline. Furthermore, several governments increasingly relied on import control measures as a complement to production policies since less intensive use was being made of price guarantee schemes, government procurement and other forms of direct market intervention. Tariffs were applied in conformity with individual countries’ WTO commitments. In some instances, countries raised tariffs, for the first time, to levels close to the (relatively high) bound rates;
  • However, in a number of countries, particularly developed ones, import tariffs have been lowered (or import restrictions reduced) in pursuance of a number of different objectives, including (a) honouring tariff reduction commitments made under URAA or regional trade agreements; (b) ensuring adequate domestic supplies and protecting consumers from high prices; (c) improving access of crushers to imported raw materials; and (d) continuation of general trade liberalization reforms;
  • Tariff escalation is widely used as numerous countries try to promote domestic crushing or refining industries with a view to reduce import bills and promote domestic value addition;
  • With regard to policy options currently under discussions at WTO, the “cocktail approach” and reductions from applied rates are likely to have the strongest impact on the sector;
  • Convergence to ad valorem tariffs: should have a positive impact as, currently, many complex duties are applied at the expense of transparency;
  • Tariffs applied by developed countries generally do not overly penalise developing countries; developing countries can be expected to resist further tariff reductions unless domestic support and export subsidies provided in developed countries are also reduced; developing country import policies generally aim at enabling the sector to fully develop its production and processing potential; developing countries could benefit from improved market access (reduced tariff escalation) for processed oilseed products.

Amber box

  • Some developing country producers/exporters strongly criticise trade distorting domestic support in developed countries where (relatively high-cost) production and exports expanded, aided by support measures;
  • Support provided in developing countries is traditionally low (due to general liberalisation reforms, financial constraints etc.) and not affected by reduction commitments; mostly ad hoc intervention in domestic markets;
  • Developed countries can be expected to insist on the framework of the amber, green, blue boxes as well as on the non-trade distorting character of certain measures.

Export subsidies

  • Direct export subsidies/refunds are only used in a few countries;
  • Indirect forms of export subsidy are used in a number of countries (developed and developing; systematically and ad hoc): insurance and guarantee programmes; export credit, etc;
  • Possible abuse of food aid (vegetable oils and meals) is an issue;
  • Reduction or elimination of export subsidies is not expected to create particular difficulties in net food-importing developing countries.

State trading enterprises

  • Most STEs in the sector are dealing with imports;
  • While still operating in selected countries (in particular China), STE interference in the sector has been progressively scaled back over recent years and is expected to continue diminishing.

Export restrictions and prohibitions

  • Used in a variety of developing countries and economies in transition, though mainly in a temporary manner;
  • In the sector, the need to assist the development of processed product industries in developing countries is real and could justify the use of such measures in those countries.

Food security

  • Oilcrop-specific support and protection of subsistence farmers has weakened over past years relative to other sectors, mainly due to cuts in public spending; it has also lost its effectiveness due to increased attractiveness of imports (following the fall in world prices);
  • Consumption policies (in developing countries): ad hoc market intervention continues to be used in several countries; but systematic subsidisation is being phased out as governments tend to redirect their attention to regulatory tasks;
  • Developing countries: faced with rising import dependence, several countries have stepped up their efforts to shield domestic industries from international competition; most countries resorted to tariff measures; temporary export restrictions are applied by some countries.

Food safety

  • Concerns relate to contamination, toxic residues and adulteration of edible oils, as well as GMO traceability in oils and meals; these issues are much debated and of increasing concern to policy makers and legislators in both developed and developing countries;
  • “Precautionary principle” adopted by some developed countries has come under attack by trading partners.

Rural development

  • Of significance for developing and transition countries in the area of non-trade concerns;
  • Direct relationship between rural development and food security/rural poverty concerns in developing countries with large numbers of small holders in rural areas;
  • Special provisions will be required to address this issue for the developing countries, most probably within a “development box” and even including some price/production intervention.

Geographical indications

  • Not applicable except for olive oil produced and marketed within the EU.

Green box

  • No sector relevance as, in principle, green box supports are non-crop specific. Even the recent US emergency payments have eventually been classified under the amber box;
  • However, there is strong disagreement with regard to the distortionary effects of most arable crop support policies under the green box even when they are decoupled.

Blue box

  • Now only applies to EU direct aid payments for oilseeds; from 2002, distortion effects are expected to be reduced in that oilcrop payments will be gradually lower and aligned to those offered to other arable crops. Whether the overall ceiling on area will still apply once full alignment is reached remains unclear.

Special agricultural safeguard

  • Although a number of developing and developed countries have reserved right to use SSGs in relation to oilseeds and products, since 1995 only two countries have actually taken action, with only small quantities being involved;
  • Use of this tool by developing countries is expected to remain limited as, in principle, their industries tend to enjoy a high level of protection through relatively high bound tariffs.

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