(over 100 countries present proposals in first year)
4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar launches Doha
Development Agenda (DDA), adding agriculture and services
Agriculture negotiations chairman Stuart Harbinson compiles
“overview paper” (over 80 pages, compiling all proposals)
17 Feb 2003
First draft “modalities” circulated.
24–28 February 2003: negotiations on first draft
18 Mar 2003
Revised first draft “modalities” circulated.
25–31 March 2003: negotiations on second draft
31 Mar 2003
Deadline for “modalities”
5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico
Members submit draft commitments
1 Jan 2005
Deadline for most Doha Development Agenda negotiations
“The failure to meet the deadline for agreeing agriculture negotiating
modalities is a great disappointment for us all. Negotiators must
redouble their efforts in agriculture and all other areas of negotiation
between now and the September Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico.
My initial discussions with ministers and other senior trade officials,
have given me some encouragement that this commitment exists,” said the
Dr. Supachai welcomed the willingness of participants to continue
working on agriculture modalities and stressed the importance of
maintaining momentum in other areas of the negotiations such as
services, industrial tariff reductions, trade and environment and
reforming WTO rules, so that “positive linkages” with the agriculture
negotiations can be established.
“The Doha Development Agenda negotiations are a single undertaking. No
element of them will be agreed until all areas are agreed. But
significant progress in some areas often provides negotiators with an
incentive to overcome their differences even on the most politically
sensitive questions,” he said.
In the 31 March negotiations meeting, chairperson Stuart Harbinson told
delegations that the failure to meet the deadline was “certainly a
setback. We must all be disappointed that all our efforts have not come
to fruition,” he said.
He added: “I get a strong sense from all sides of a continuing
commitment to the Doha mandate. I have also been told by many delegates
that they are committed to continue working on the issues before us. We
should not gloss over the difficulties, but we must also look to the
He concluded: “The task ahead and our common
responsibility is simple and clear — we must continue working together
towards completing the job given to us by ministers in Doha as soon as
The 31 March deadline was for establishing “modalities” in the
agriculture negotiations. These are targets (including numerical
targets) for achieving the objectives of the negotiations, as well as
issues related to rules. They will set parameters for the final
agreement in the agriculture negotiations, for example how far import
duties should be cut, and subsidies reduced or eliminated, and over what
periods of time.
Along with almost all the other negotiations under the Doha Development
Agenda, the agriculture talks are scheduled to end by 1 January 2005.
This timetable was agreed in November 2001, at the Fourth WTO
Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar.
The negotiations’ chairperson, Stuart Harbinson, prepared a first draft
of the modalities in February. Following comments from participants,
this was revised in March, but Mr Harbinson noted that negotiators had
tended to stick to their starting positions and had given him little
guidance on how to narrow the wide gaps between them.
Background and explanations
> Agriculture negotiations
> The revised