Detailed analysis on how the EU agri-food trade flows have changed in the past year with regard to partners and traded products is provided in annual publications, which also summarize the agri-food trade performance of the world key players.
The latest report highlights that the EU further expanded agricultural trade in 2014, despite the Russian import embargo.
Annual export values increased by 1.6% and annual import values grew by 2.1%, affirming the EU's new status as the most important actor on agricultural world markets simultaneously as supplier and buyer.
The analysis reveals that the EU offers a diverse array of competitive products at all levels of the agricultural value chain. The EU's import basket in turn is dominated by commodities and other primary products. 2014 figures for the EU confirm the growing importance and strengthened links with the US in agri-food trade. The largest absolute annual export value increases were registered for the product categories "infant food", "milk powders and whey" and "wheat", all of which already belonged to the European export flag ships in previous years.
The Impact of the International Agreements on European Agriculture
The international dimension of agricultural policy is part and parcel of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This is set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Articles 39 and 40), that specifically targets the stabilizing of imports and exports as a means to address market volatility, and deliver on the objectives of the CAP. Various studies and analytical papers on agricultural as well as trade policies affecting agriculture are available here:
In this chapter, you will find an overview of the EU's multilateral trade activities in agriculture.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and agriculture
WTO obligations and their implementation
Agriculture in the Doha Round
Other WTO activities
WTO and the Multilateral Trading System
With 160 member countries (in July 2014), the WTO, established in 1995, sets the global rules governing trade between nations. The WTO is a member-driven organisation whose core activities are:
multilateral negotiations aimed at progressive liberalisation of markets;
setting the legal ground-rules for trade in the form of agreements;
resolving trade disputes between States; and
monitoring Members' trade policies.
The European Union (EU), as the world's largest trading block, is a key player in the WTO, where the European Commission negotiates on behalf of the 28 countries of the EU as a single entity. The EU actively supports the work of the WTO on multilateral rule-making and trade liberalisation, seeking to:
maintain open markets and ensure new markets for European companies;
strengthen multilateral rules and ensure their observance by others;
promote sustainable development in trade.
The current trading rules were negotiated during the Uruguay Round (1986–1994) leading to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Marrakesh Agreement is in fact a series of agreements on many aspects of trade rules including among others the latest revision of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), intellectual property, dispute settlement, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary rules, and an Agreement on Agriculture.
The WTO Agreement on Agriculture sets out specific commitments undertaken by WTO members to improve market access and reduce trade distorting subsidies in trade in agricultural products. The application of these agreed commitments started in 1995 with an implementation period for developed countries of 6 years, and 10 years for developing members. The Uruguay Round made a decisive move towards increased market orientation in global agricultural trade. The results of the WTO negotiations consist of general rules that apply to all Members as well as specific commitments made by individual Members. These specific commitments are listed under 'schedules of concessions'. For agricultural products, these concessions and commitments include tariff and quota bindings, and limits on export subsidies and on domestic support. The implementation of commitments stemming from the Agreement on Agriculture is overseen by the Committee on Agriculture. Within this committee, WTO members have the opportunity to consult on issues related to the implementation of their commitments. The questions members ask each other under the review of notifications are part of the Committee’s key responsibility of overseeing how countries are complying with their commitments.
The 9th WTO Ministerial Conference took place in Bali in December 2013. Several declarations and decisions were adopted in particular in the areas of Trade Facilitation, Agriculture, Development and LDC issues. On agriculture, the decisions taken cover three main issues:
Public stockholding for food security purposes (+ General Services)
What is the OECD and what does it do? The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) is composed of 33 countries sharing the principles of market economy, pluralist democracy and respect for human rights. >> More about OECD members and partners
The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share expertise and seek solutions to common economic problems.
works on understanding what drives economic, social and environmental change
monitors and evaluates policies,
makes market forecasts,
sets mutually agreed international standards in a wide range of areas, from agriculture and tax to the safety of chemicals.
What is the EU involvement in the OECD? While the EU enjoys a special status in the OECD, the competence of EU experts in the policy areas dealt with by the OECD allows the EU to make a valuable contribution to its work. EU experts attend and give oral and written submissions in all OECD working groups in the agricultural domain, which number around 30 meetings per year.
What work does the OECD do on agriculture? OECD analyses and policy recommendations aim to promote knowledge and provide guidelines for governments to make progress in a globalised economy.
EU experts are particularly active in the work on:
How do different international organisations work together in agriculture? The OECD has official relations with many other international organisations (IO) and bodies, of which the EU is also member. In the agriculture domain, organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are particularly relevant. Strengthened cooperation in recent years between OECD and FAO has improved the agricultural market outlook and work undertaken by then OECD and other international organisations resulted in the recent report to G20 on food price volatility and agricultural productivity.