WTO Agricultural Negociations

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The Agreement on Agriculture forms the centrepiece of WTO agriculture regulations. WTO members have committed to a series of global negotiation rounds in order to reform the Agreement. 

The Uruguay Round of 1995 resulted in the founding of the WTO and the conclusion of additional specific agreements such as the Agreement on Agriculture – but that was not the final round of negotiations in this area. Members agreed to pursue a new round of negotiations after an initial transition phase, aimed at developing the Agreement further. The current round of negotiations formally began in Doha in November 2001, and remains a work in progress due to differing views among members.

WTO members nevertheless continue their negotiations, focusing on specific aspects of the modalities text with the intent to conclude parts of the Doha Package. Negotiations in the agricultural sector, held in special sessions of the Committee on Agriculture, aim to finalise negotiation proposals at a WTO Ministerial Conference. The members have formed negotiating groups, where they coordinate common interests, positions and proposals. 

WTO Ministerial Conference

The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and provides the opportunity to further develop WTO rules. The Ministerial Conference takes place every two years. Important decisions in the field of agriculture have been adopted at Ministerial Conferences in recent years.

In Bali2013, members agreed on a ‘peace clause’ to be used as an interim solution while they negotiate a permanent agreement on public stockholding for food security purposes, and they expanded the list of General Services in the Green Box. They also  adopted a decision to ensure further transparency in the administration of tariff rate quotas and to provide a mechanism for systematically unused quotas.

In December 2015, the tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi decided to abolish all export subsidies in the agricultural sector. The members affected were granted a five-year transitional period under certain conditions to implement this decision. 

At the most recent Ministerial Conference, which took place in Buenos Aires in 2017, neither a joint ministerial declaration nor a fully comprehensive work programme could be adopted in the agricultural sector. Some members therefore see a decision on agriculture at the next Ministerial Conference as a prerequisite for decisions in other areas. The 12th Ministerial Conference, which was originally scheduled to take place in Nur-Sultan in June 2020, has already been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new date has not yet been announced.

Swiss position in the agriculture negotiations

As a small country, Switzerland has an interest in maintaining the WTO’s multilateral trade regulations, which are highly relevant to the national economy. Nevertheless, it is important that negotiations move forward in a balanced manner, so Switzerland is working to ensure that its interests in the agricultural negotiations (export competition and export restrictions) remain part of the discussion. Switzerland is the coordinator of the G10, a negotiating group of net agricultural importers that also includes Iceland, Israel, Japan, Lichtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, South Korea and Taiwan. G10 members share market access concerns and advocate for the consideration of non-trade concerns in agriculture, such as sustainability.

 

Last modification 20.01.2023

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