Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform requested NAPC to contribute
to the assessment of the compatibility of its agricultural subsidy
programs with the WTO. NAPC referred to the FAO Project GCP/SYR/006/ITA,
to receive the assistance of international expertise in developing and
assessing options for subsidization of agriculture consistent with WTO
Mr Bruce Huff, an agricultural economist and former agricultural policy
advisor to the government of Canada and OECD, to undertake this work
during the month of July. He examined the current set of subsidies
policies for Syrian agriculture, and then developed and evaluated a
series of options involving tariffication, input subsidies and direct
decoupled payments. The results were presented in a workshop to
stakeholders on July 27, including the Deputy Minister of Agriculture
and Agrarian Reform, the Head of the Commission reviewing agricultural
policies, advisors to other ministries, and producer organizations.
report provides information on the impact of the options, and proposes
that Syria uses direct payments, possibly with requirements for
continued production, for cotton. A tariffication approach is proposed
for wheat, sugar beets, and tobacco and other importable commodities.
conclusions drawn and recommendations made by the expert regard the
necessity of current policies revisions, especially with reference to
the following main issues.
Firstly, there are a number of agricultural support programs operating
in Syria, which provide considerable support, that are not acceptable to
the WTO. These include the quantitative import barriers such as bans,
restrictive licensing requirements, and monopoly importers. Such
restrictions have to be converted to tariffs, providing ‘equivalent’
levels of protection. As well, Syria would be required to guarantee a
minimum level of access, generally through a lower or zero tariff.
WTO allows state trading enterprises such as those operating in Syrian
agriculture, but they must conform to WTO rules and these agencies will
likely come under pressure to be more open and transparent on market
transactions and losses.
report urges Syria to increase the competition in the marketing and
processing sector to lower costs and improve quality. It indicates the
need for new stakeholder information programs and new policies to cope
with and benefit from increased market price fluctuations. The study
indicates the need for more medium and long term loans to allow the
desirable adaptation of the agricultural sector to the new international
market environment. It notes that the currently provided subsidies in
the area of food security, infrastructure, research and extension are
compatible with the WTO regulations.