THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.

“INFORMAL MEETING” means there are no minutes.

> News: agriculture talks

> Agriculture negotiations
> Modalities phase

> The Doha Round

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The story so far 

2000: Agriculture negotiations launched(March). See backgrounder

2001: Doha Development Agenda launched. Agriculture included (November)

2004: “Framework” agreed (August)

2005: Further agreements in Hong Kong Ministerial Conference (December)

2006: Draft modalities (June)

2007: Revised draft modalities (July)

2007-2008: Intensive negotiations with working documents (September-January)

2008: Revised draft modalities (February, May and July)

2008: The July 2008 package full coverage and the chair’s report

2008: Revised draft modalities (February, May, July and December)

Ambassador Adank’s first task will be to report to the General Council chairperson on latest developments, a requirement shared by the chairs of all the regular and negotiations committees.

Speaking in an informal session after the formal meeting elected him, the new chairperson said the report will be an update of work in the agriculture negotiations since the “Easter package” of all negotiations subjects was presented in April 2011. This will include a smaller group consultation on agriculture in May and more recently consultations on a proposal on cotton for the 15–17 December Ministerial Conference.

He said that the consultations on cotton have not produced a consensus. Many members expressed their support for further efforts to see how the issue might be advanced.

More generally, he said he will consult members on what to do in the agriculture negotiations in early 2012 (after the 15–17 December Ministerial Conference).


Cotton proposal

The proposal comes from the “Cotton-4” group (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali). It asks ministers to reaffirm a number of decisions taken on cotton, including paragraphs 11 and 12 of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, which include a commitment to cut distorting subsidies for cotton by more than the reductions on other agricultural products.

The proposal also calls for ministers to freeze at current levels their countries’ market-distorting domestic support for cotton. It notes that support is at a historically low level because of high world market prices. Members disagree on this “standstill” proposal, Ambassador Adank said.



Several members supported the Cotton-4 proposal and all who spoke said they were willing to continue consultations. However the meeting was held on the last working day (18 November) before the deadline for reporting to the General Council and for putting items on the ministerial agenda through the General Council’s 30 November meeting.


Farm talks’ chairs

Ambassador Adank is the eighth chairperson of the agriculture negotiations since talks began in March 2000 and the fifth since the talks were brought into the Doha Round in 2001.

Before Doha Round (Under Art.20 of the Agriculture Agreement)

  • March 2000: Roger Farrell (New Zealand, ex officio as Goods Council chairperson)
  • June 2000 to March 2001: Jorge Voto-Bernales (Peru)
  • March 2001 to Doha Ministerial Conference (opening final meeting March 2002): Apiradi Tantraporn (Thailand)

Doha Round

  • From Doha (Nov 2001, chairing first meeting March 2002) to Cancún (Sept 2003): Stuart Harbinson (Hong Kong, China)
  • From Cancún (Sept 2003, chairing first meeting March 2004) to summer (July) 2005: Tim Groser (New Zealand)
  • From summer (Sept) 2005 to April 2009: Crawford Falconer (New Zealand)
  • From April 2009 to June 2011: David Walker (New Zealand)
  • From November 2011: John Adank (New Zealand)


Chairperson to consult members after the 15–17 December 2011 Ministerial Conference (in early 2012)


Jargon buster 

Place the cursor over a term to see its definition:

About negotiating texts:

• bracketed

• “Job document”

• modality, modalities

• schedules

• templates


• Amber box

• Blue box

• box

• de minimis

• distortion

• export competition

• Green box

• pro-rating

• sensitive products

• special products (SP)

• special safeguard mechanism (SSM)

• tariff line

• tariff quota

• the three pillars

> More jargon: glossary
> More explanations

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