Agreement on Agriculture and the Committee on Agriculture

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The key document of the WTO regulations regarding agriculture is the Agreement on Agriculture. With the completion of the Uruguay Round in 1995, disciplines in the area of agriculture were integrated into the WTO/GATT regulations for the first time.

In the 1980s, the massive interventions of developed countries in their agricultural markets led to surplus production. In order to be able to sell the surplus products, they were sold on the world markets at subsidized prices, thus distorting trade. On the one hand, this led to high budget costs for developed countries, and on the other, it disturbed the markets for agricultural products from developing countries. In this context, an agreement which set down binding regulations for its members' agricultural support became increasingly important.

The WTO Agreement on Agriculture rests on three pillars:

  1. Domestic support
  2. Market access
  3. Export competition


WTO members agreed to discipline their measures with regard to these three areas. A reduction of trade distorting measures was decided for domestic support (Amber Box), whereas subsidies which have no or only a marginal impact on trade (Green Box) continue to be permitted without
limitation. The member countries have committed to transforming all border measures into customs duties and reducing tariffs for agricultural products. Furthermore, the scope for export subsidies was restricted. To ensure transparency, WTO members must regularly notify WTO of all measures undertaken within the three pillars. These notifications are sent to the WTO Secretariat and then made accessible to all member countries, as well as the public.

The WTO Uruguay Round significantly affected the development of Switzerland's agriculture policy in the 1990s. As a result, Switzerland's policy became more market-oriented, and product-specific
subsidies were transformed into direct payments. Today, the bulk of Switzerland's agricultural domestic support is carried out by measures that are in accordance with the criteria of the "Green Box", which does not have any impact on trade or, at most, a minimal one. 

The WTO Committee on Agriculture was created to monitor and further develop the Agreement on Agriculture. All WTO members are represented onthe Committee, which holds regular meetings three to four times a year.In this forum, members can ask each other questions about their
compliance with the Agreement on Agriculture.

Further Information

Last modification 28.03.2022

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