Countries have agreed to one thing: to shift from quota restrictions on agricultural raw material imports to tariffs – a process called customs – a process of converting import quotas to import duties. WTO countries have agreed to introduce tariffs on all raw materials in the Uruguay Round Agreement. The logic is that tariffs are more transparent and could be negotiated more easily downwards in future rounds of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A second concession by countries was to accept at least low market access for essential raw materials. For many countries, there were prohibitive quotas for important foodstuffs. The total limitation of rice imports to Japan is a perfect example. The mechanism for guaranteeing these minimum levels was the introduction of tariff quotas. A tariff quota, a low tariff rate for a fixed import quota and a high tariff for all imports covered by that quota. establishes a low tariff rate for the fixed volume of imports and a high tariff rate for all imports made above that quota. By properly setting the quota and setting a relatively low tariff rate on that amount, a country can easily reach the minimum levels of import it wishes to achieve.

The agreement breaks major paths by imposing a ban on so-called “shadow zones” measures and a “sunset clause” for all protection measures. The agreement provides that a member cannot request, take or maintain voluntary export restrictions, orderly marketing agreements or similar measures on the export or import side. Any such measure, which came into force on the date the agreement came into force, would be aligned with that agreement or would have to expire within four years of the WTO agreement coming into force. A waiver could be provided for each importing member, provided the expiry is made on December 31, 1999. Other provisions include rules on compensation or suspension of concessions in the event of non-implementation. Within a specified period of time, the parties may enter into negotiations to agree on mutually acceptable compensation. In the event of a non-agreement, a party to the dispute may seek authorization from the dispute settlement treaty to suspend concessions or other obligations to the other party concerned. The DSB grants this authorization within 30 days of the end of the agreed implementation period. Differences of opinion on the proposed level of suspension may be referred to arbitration. In principle, concessions should be suspended in the same area as the one at issue in the panel case. If this is not feasible or effective, the suspension may take place in another area of the same agreement. If this is not effective or feasible and the circumstances are serious enough, the suspension of concessions may be made as part of another agreement.

The agreement also provides that, as part of the integration process, all members will take the necessary steps in the textile and clothing sector to comply with GATT rules and disciplines, to improve market access, to ensure the implementation of policies under fair and fair trade conditions, and to avoid discrimination against imports when taking action on general trade policy grounds. Part I of the agreement contains general provisions and fundamental principles, including an obligation to exercise that nationals of other parties should not be treated less favourably than those granted to their own nationals of a party in terms of intellectual property protection. It also includes a clause of the most favoured nation, a novelty in an international intellectual property agreement, which requires that any benefit granted by one party to nationals of another country be extended without delay and unconditionally to nationals of all other parties, even if such treatment is more favourable than that granted to its own nationals.

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