AUSTRALIA, along with Brazil, has launched formal dispute action with the World Trade Organization on India’s continuing sugar subsidies that, the complaint says, are depressing world prices and impacting Australia and Brazil’s sugar industries.

Minister for trade Simon Birmingham said India’s sugar subsidy regime was inconsistent with WTO rules and had helped create a glut in the global sugar market.

“This glut is hurting Australia’s canegrowers and millers, and is threatening our $1.8bn sugar export industry by dragging down prices to unsustainable lows,” he said.

“While Australia respects the rights of WTO members to support their farmers and agricultural industries, this support must be consistent with WTO rules and provide a level playing field.”

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Mr Birmingham said Australia always seeks to resolve its concerns outside of the WTO’s dispute system and its “numerous” representations to India and the WTO have been consistent with such an approach.

“Unfortunately, our representations, and those of other sugar exporting countries, have so far been unsuccessful. This has left us with no other choice but to initiate formal WTO dispute action, together with Brazil,” he said.

“Australia maintains a very good relationship with India, both economically and strategically, and it is perfectly normal for even close friends and partners to avail themselves of WTO mechanisms from time-to-time to resolve trade issues.”

Agriculture minister David Littleproud and assistant trade minister Mark Coulton joined Mr Birmingham in acknowledging the work the Canegrowers and the Australian Sugar Milling Council have done in preparing to launch this WTO action.

“Our industry relies heavily on exports, sending roughly 85% of its raw sugar into the world market,” Mr Littleproud said.

“These subsidies are hitting our farmers and millers, and I’m pleased we’re exercising our WTO rights and asking for an even playing field.”

Assistant Minister Coulton said the sugar industry made a great contribution to jobs and the economy in regional Australia and the government would continue to stand up for these communities.

“This action being taken by the government demonstrates our commitment to protecting the interests of our hard-working canegrowers and sugar millers, and to the rules-based international trading system that underpins the viability of our vital export industries,” Mr Coulton said.

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