Aust has win in sugar dispute with India


Australia has had a win in its trade dispute with India over the use of sugar subsidies after the World Trade Organisation ruled in its favour.

But the long-running dispute may have some way to go after India said it would appeal the finding.

Overnight on Tuesday, a WTO panel ruled in favour of Australia – along with Brazil and Guatemala – and called on New Delhi to conform with global rules.

In the cases brought before the WTO in 2019, the three countries alleged India had broken WTO rules by providing excessive domestic support and export subsidies for sugar and sugarcane.

“We recommend that India bring its WTO-inconsistent measures into conformity with its obligations under the Agreement on Agriculture and the SCM (Subsidies and Countervailing Measures) Agreement,” the panel said.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud welcomed the ruling and backed Australia’s use of the WTO dispute process.

“Australia’s use of the WTO in this matter is consistent with its previous use of the WTO and aligns with our support for the rules-based trading system,” the minister said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“The government will continue to defend the interests of Australian producers by using the established system in the WTO to resolve our differences.”

In a 115-page report, the WTO panel said that for five sugar seasons between 2014/15 and 2018/19, India provided domestic support to its sugarcane producers in excess of the maximum level of 10 per cent permitted under a global agriculture deal.

It also said India failed to notify a WTO committee of its sugar export subsidies, violating a separate agreement.

But the panel did not uphold an allegation by Australia that India had maintained buffer sugar stocks, which it should have reported to the WTO in the 1990s.

India, the world’s second-largest sugar producer after Brazil, said it would appeal the panel’s findings which it described as “erroneous”.