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Food industry

Multilateral trade - the EU and the WTO

Conceptual business scene with columns, people and map © Stasys Eidiejus,

World trade affairs are largely monitored by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which brings together 160 members, representing more than 95% of total world trade.

The WTO is a negotiating forum designed to liberalise world trade. Since it was established in 1995, it has concluded a number of important agreements: the agreement on agriculture; the general agreement on trade in services; the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights agreement; the sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreement; the agreement on technical barriers to trade.

It is the WTO's responsibility to implement these agreements and to assure member countries' adherence to them. The European Union negotiates in the WTO, on behalf of all the member states based on the common trade policy agreed on in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU (Art 207).

To ensure the interests of each EU country are represented, a special committee bringing together officials from each of the 28 member countries and from the European Commission meets weekly. All aspects of international trade are addressed at these meetings, from WTO negotiations to export refunds.

At the current time, WTO members are engaged in a round of multilateral negotiations known as the Doha Development Agenda which is in the condition of stalemate. The four main players of trade in food products (the Brazil, EU, India and the US) have held talks but have yet to reach an agreement.

For the food and drink industry, the priority is to reach an agreement which keeps the following aspects to the fore: export competition, market access and domestic support.

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