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AGRICULTURE: NEGOTIATIONS

Chairperson’s reference papers, April-June 2006

Updated: 22 June 2006

In early April 2006, Ambassador Crawford Falconer, chairperson of the agriculture negotiations, started circulating a set of reference papers for the last week of agriculture negotiations before the 30 April deadline for “modalities”. When the deadline was missed, the agriculture negotiations began continuous meetings into May and June.

A first draft of the modalities paper was circulated on 22 June 2006.

> More on the modalities phase
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The reference papers represent preliminary texts for preparing modalities on all areas of the agriculture negotiations.

Go to:
Draft “modalities”: 22 June 2006
> Chairperson’s notes: 13 April 2006, 25 April 2006


 

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Download reference papers:

Export competition:

> Food aid, 11 April 2006 (8 pages in Word 79KB; pdf 51KB), 10 May 2006 (4 pages in Word 53KB; pdf 32KB)

> Exporting state trading enterprises, 11 April 2006 (5 pages in Word 62KB; pdf 31KB), 10 May 2006 (2 pages in Word 49KB; pdf 20KB)

> Export credits, 13 April 2006 (7 pages in Word 69KB; pdf 41KB), 10 May 2006 (6 pages in Word 67KB; pdf 41KB)

> Export competition, 15 June 2006 (16 pages in Word 130KB; pdf 98KB)

 

Domestic support:

> Blue Box, 13 April 2006 (4 pages in Word 57KB; pdf 28KB), 24 May 2006 (4 pages in Word 49KB; pdf 29KB)

> Green Box, 12 April 2006 (5 pages in Word 61KB; pdf 34KB), 30 May 2006 (10 pages in Word 97KB; pdf 64KB)

> Amber Box (AMS), 24 May 2006 (6 pages in Word 79KB; pdf 40KB)

> Overall trade distorting domestic support, 24 May 2006 (5 pages in Word 78KB; pdf 36KB)

 

Market access:

> Special safeguard mechanism (SSM), 26 April 2006 (9 pages in Word 68KB; pdf 59KB)

> Special products (SPs), 4 May 2006 (5 pages in Word 48KB; pdf 32KB)

> Small vulnerable economies, 4 May 2006 (4 pages in Word 52KB; pdf 31KB)

> Sensitive products, 11 May 2006 (6 pages in Word 81KB; pdf 40KB)

> Long-standing preferences, 18 May 2006 (7 pages in Word 92KB; pdf 43KB)

> Tropical and diversification products, 18 May 2006 (9 pages in Word 162KB; pdf 53KB)

> Market access, 9 June 2006 (37 pages in Word 348KB; pdf 246KB)

 

Others:

> Recently-acceded members, 4 May 2006 (8 pages in Word 270KB; pdf 51KB)

 


 

Chairperson Crawford Falconer’s notes

13 April 2006

As I foreshadowed at the informal Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture held on 24 March, the next Agriculture Week will take place beginning Tuesday 18 April.

It is worth reflecting on where we are as we approach next week. The fact is that, to this point at least, we are not in anything that I can recognise as a closing zone for finalizing modalities. Serious efforts have been made and I think it is fair to say that a degree of progress has been made through various efforts in various configurations and in various places. We have in fact moved forward from Hong Kong. We are making progress in certain issues, and the degree of engagement is genuine. There have been, and continue to be, signs of flexibility in position in a good range of issues. I summed up a number of those at our last Agriculture Week meeting, and the plethora of informal papers in that last week and since from Members is indicative of the clear signs of intensified effort. But, while that is undoubtedly the case, it is also undeniable that, as of today, we have not reached the requisite degree of convergence. And we certainly have not done so in this multilateral forum, which is the essence of our process.

By the time we gather for the Agriculture Week next Tuesday afternoon we will effectively have three working days to cover all the issues that remain outstanding and to forge the degree of convergence that would be needed to achieve finalized modalities by the end of April.

That is what we need to do next week. That simple. That difficult. It is, shall we say, a tall order.

But it is the task that has been set. It is only stating the obvious, but it may bear repeating: a resolution of outstanding issues will not come about through spontaneous combustion or via papers from heaven (whether or not divinely inspired). That can only come from negotiated compromises among Members. That is what is needed now. Nothing else can do the trick.

It is perhaps also worth underlining that it is a genuinely multilateral endeavour — which means it can be achieved only with the consensus — and the ongoing participatory involvement — of the entire Membership. It is, moreover, an enterprise aimed at securing the so-called “modalities”. Not “half” modalities or “partial” modalities or modalities “à la carte”. It is the full fixed menu. Unless, or until, you as Members wish it to be otherwise, that is the process I will do my best to Chair.

But I cannot avoid concluding that the reality of our situation has some practical consequences for how we should proceed next week. First, for the very reason that various discussions in various places have not yet got us to the requisite zone of engagement for modalities, we do have, it seems to me, a clear responsibility in this forum to seek to move forward across the board. So it seems to me that we need to leave ourselves time to address comprehensively the state of all the pillars in the spirit of trying to find ways to move forward.

Second, we are all involved in this, so I would feel it advisable to give over as much time as possible to genuinely multilateral discussion. We have had useful and productive discussions in smaller configurations in, for example, so-called “Room F” formats. I am not closed to making further use of that format if I have the clear sense from Members that that would be useful in the course of next week. But I have to say that I feel, right now, that the process would profit from using such marginal time as we have at our disposal with priority to the fully multilateral.

Third, I do believe that you will all want to have time to caucus and meet with each other. I would envisage leaving time for that, but, as you will see, there is not a surfeit of time left for that.

Fourth, a word or two on the so-called reference papers. As I have indicated above I take as the working assumption that we will — and we should — give our time next week to cover all the elements outstanding in the three pillars. Consequently, I would not see strong reasons for according particular priority right now to the reference papers, although they — or more precisely the subject matter that they address — are inevitably part of our comprehensive agenda and, on the export pillar, they cover the core three “parallelism” issues.

If anything, I would venture the view that there are other more important issues that need even more attention right now if we are to be in a position to achieve modalities by end-April. As Members will recall, there was a specific rationale for working on these subjects, to be eventually reflected in these reference papers. That was that these subjects were more inherently textual in nature than the so-called “numbers” issues. It was felt, therefore, that we would not want to find ourselves in a position where the numbers proved negotiable and the more textually complicated issues ended up holding us up as it were. Well, there is no getting away from the obvious fact that these “numbers” questions can hardly be said to have moved on a fast track. And there are other issues too. Time to deal with these up front.

Fifth, we will inevitably need to take some time next week to consider the way ahead. There is not much that can be usefully said about that right now given that that can, of course, only be finally judged when we see where we get to on substance. I am fully conscious that you as Members have made it clear that this is now, and is to remain, a bottom-up transparent multilateral process. I would only add that I still consider that the basic concept of moving through an intensive discussion to reference papers and, via those to outline texts does seem to me to still be, conceptually, a sensible way to work. It is compatible with the kind of process we are all committed to, as it is transparent and Member-controlled. It permits the Chair to initiate (but not out of thin air — only on the basis of what has gone before) while ensuring that Members, through response, cannot be by-passed. Provided it functions as a genuinely iterative process it is the best way of ensuring that there are “no surprises”.

Of course, that process was not selected for the main issues before us, and time is now so short that it is difficult to see how it could be resorted to for them meaningfully in the compressed time available. And, of course, even for the issues where it has been trialled it would still need to be so accelerated now that it would be a virtually continuous process to resolve things by end April-albeit that, with the right will, anything is possible. Nevertheless, as we consider where we need to be by end-April and beyond, I do think it is worth reflecting on whether a bit more of such an approach might actually prove to be more helpful to us in the period ahead.

Bearing in mind those reflections, the following schedule of meetings is proposed for the week:

  • On Tuesday afternoon, 18 April, starting at 3 p.m., there will be an informal Special Session when delegations will have the opportunity to make statements and to inform others of the work they have undertaken since the end of the March Agriculture Week;
     
  • Immediately after these statements I intend to continue in informal open-ended consultations mode for the rest of Tuesday afternoon, and continuing, if necessary, on Wednesday morning, 19 April, starting at 10 a.m., and on Friday morning, 21 April, starting at 10 a.m.. In the event that the consultations have not finished by 1 p.m. on Friday, it will be possible to continue into the afternoon starting at 3 p.m.;
     
  • It has been some time now since the Membership as a whole has had the opportunity to discuss the main issues — parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies, domestic support reductions and improvements in market access. In my opinion, at this stage, it is essential that all delegations should have the opportunity to give their input into the negotiations on these issues. Therefore:
     
    • We will start on Tuesday afternoon with export competition. While delegations may wish to raise any issue in this pillar I would propose that the focus of discussion would be the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies by end-2013;
       
    • After discussing export competition we will move on to domestic support starting with reductions in Final Bound AMS and overall trade-distorting domestic support. I will then open the floor for interventions on other aspects of domestic support, including cotton; and
       
    • Following domestic support, the consultations will focus on market access. Once again, as with the other pillars, all issues are on the table.
       
  • Immediately after the end of the informal open-ended consultations on Friday, there will be another informal open-ended Special Session when I will report on any progress made during the week and delegations will have the opportunity to make their own comments on the week’s work as well. We will need to reflect collectively on the way forward; and
     
  • Tuesday morning, 18 April, Wednesday afternoon, 19 April and Thursday, 20 April, will be available for delegations for bilateral contacts during which time I may also conduct some of my own consultations with different groups of delegations.

25 April 2006

As I foreshadowed at the informal Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture held on Friday 21 April, there will be informal open-ended consultations this week on Special Products, the Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing countries and other market access issues. These consultations will start on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Council Room, continuing on Thursday morning 27 April starting at 10 a.m. and Friday afternoon 28 April starting at 3 p.m. Please note that the Sub-Committee on Cotton will take place on Friday morning starting at 10 a.m. As usual I would encourage delegations to hold consultations with others and I will also be holding my own consultations during this period.

As I foreshadowed last week, I envisage that we should move, after this transition week, to a fortnightly cycle. The first week of each fortnight would be made up of “informal-informal” meetings which could be attended to by Geneva-based agriculture attachés, though it is, of course, up to each delegation decide who it wants representing it. The second week of each cycle would consist of “informal” open-ended meetings which capital-based officials may wish to attend.

I am still considering the exact format and sequence of issues for the forthcoming fortnightly sequence. At the end of this week I hope to be in a position to give delegations an outline of the agenda.