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.

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> News: agriculture talks

> Agriculture negotiations
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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)

The “Cotton Four C4” proposal (text below) seeks decisions at the Bali Ministerial Conference, 3–6 December 2013. It was first presented by Burkina Faso to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 25 October 2013, and then by Chad at a consultation on the development side of cotton on 30 October.

The proposal is explained here.

Meanwhile, Ambassador John Adank has updated members on the latest situation in the agriculture negotiations. He, too, reported to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 25 October 2013 (text here) and to the consultation on the development side of cotton on 30 October (extract on cotton here). The latest explanation is here.




Cotton-4 proposal
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24 October 2013
Committee on Agriculture Special Session
Cotton, including the sub-committee
Original: French


WTO negotiations on agriculture

Communication from the Co-sponsors of the Sectoral Initiative in Favour of Cotton

This communication, dated 24 October 2013, is being circulated at the request of the co-sponsors of the Sectoral Initiative in Favour of Cotton.


Draft decision on cotton

The Ministers,

Stressing the vital importance of cotton to the economies of several African countries in general and those of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular;

Concerned at the adverse consequences for the cotton market of trade distorting domestic support measures and export subsidies;

Also concerned at the consequences of these measures for the economies of the developing countries, and particularly those of the LDCs, and for the social conditions of populations in the rural cotton producing communities in those countries;

Stressing the urgency of settling the problems faced by the countries belonging to the Group of Least Developed Countries as a result of the trade distorting domestic support measures and the cotton export subsidies;

Referring to the Declaration adopted at the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) held in Hong Kong in December 2005, and especially paragraphs 11 and 12 thereof relating to cotton;

Concerned at the lack of progress on the cotton issue in the trade negotiations; and

Without prejudice to the overall conclusion of the negotiations on agriculture in the framework of the Doha Development Agenda;

Decide as follows:


1 Trade component

1.1 Market access

1. Developed country Members, and developing country Members declaring themselves in a position to do so, shall grant, as from 1 January 2015, duty free and quota free market access for cotton from the cotton exporting LDCs.

2. Developing country Members declaring themselves not to be in a position to grant duty free and quota free market access for exports of cotton from the cotton exporting LDCs shall undertake, as from 1 January 2015, to look positively at the possibilities for increased import opportunities for cotton from LDC Members.

3. In the course of its sessions, the Sub Committee on Least Developed Countries shall review the implementation by Members of paragraphs 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 above.

4. In accordance with its mandate under the Work Programme for LDCs, the Sub Committee on LDCs shall include in its work the following specific elements:

  • identification and examination of market access barriers, including tariff and non tariff barriers for the entry of cotton exported by the cotton producing LDCs;
  • annual reviews in the Sub Committee of the market access improvements and of any market access measures undertaken by Members, including the identification of access barriers to cotton exported by the cotton producing LDCs in markets of interest to them. These reports will be on the basis of factual annual studies by the Secretariat of the WTO or any other relevant international organizations; and
  • examination of possible additional measures for progressive and predictable improvements in market access, in particular the elimination of tariff and non tariff barriers to cotton exported by the cotton producing LDCs.

1.2 Domestic support

5. Reaffirm the mandate given by Members in the Decision adopted by the General Council on 1 August 2004 according to which cotton was to be addressed ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically, and calling upon all stakeholders in the cotton issue to engage effectively and without delay in the negotiations, on the basis of the outcomes of the work carried out in the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture and contained in the reports of the Chair of the agriculture negotiations;

6. Instruct the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture and the Sub Committee on Cotton to intensify and complete the work on this important issue, on the basis of the official proposals by Members, and to submit a draft Decision on the definitive resolution of the cotton issue to the General Council by 31 December 2014 at the latest;

7. Request that the WTO Secretariat circulate a compilation of all domestic support measures (AMS, blue box, de minimis, green box, etc.) over the past ten years in the main cotton producing, exporting and importing countries.

1.3 Export subsidies

8. The WTO Secretariat shall report to Members at each session of the Ministerial Conference on implementation by the developed country Members of the Decision adopted in Hong Kong relating to the elimination in 2006 of all forms of export subsidies for cotton.

9. The developed country Members that have not yet complied with the implementation of the decision adopted in Hong Kong relating to the elimination in 2006 of all forms of export subsidies for cotton shall do so immediately following the adoption of the present Decision.


2 “Development” component 

10. The necessary link will have to be established between the development aspect of cotton and the Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative in order to create, on the basis of the priorities identified by the cotton producing LDCs, a framework conducive to the development of subregional or regional multidimensional and integrated programmes or projects, for submission to the development partners.

11. The developing countries, and in particular the LDCs having a substantial trade interest in cotton, shall prepare, for submission to the development partners, regional scale integrative projects, if necessary, linked to cotton or related sectors.


3 Implementation and follow up

12. The Sub Committee on Least Developed Countries, in conformity with its mandate under the Work Programme for the LDCs, shall establish an item on its agenda entitled “Follow up to Ministerial Decisions/Declarations” where Members will be invited to report on measures taken in fulfilment of WTO Ministerial Decisions and Declarations on cotton.

13. Pending the deadline of 31 December 2014 mentioned in paragraph 6 above, the General Council is instructed, in the course of 2014, to conduct periodic reviews of the implementation of this Decision, based on the reports submitted by the Trade Negotiations Committee, the Sub Committee on LDCs, the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, and the Sub Committee on Cotton.

14. Finally, the WTO Director General is invited to furnish periodic reports on the implementation of this Decision, taking account of both the trade policy aspects of cotton and the aspects relating to development assistance.


Update on the agriculture negotiations
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Report by the chairman of the Special Session of
the Committee on Agriculture
Ambassador John Adank (New Zealand)

Trade negotiations Committee
25 October 2013

Since our last TNC meeting on 14 October, I have continued consulting on the G-33 proposal concerning public stockholding for food security as well as on the G-20 proposals on export competition and TRQ administration in various formats.

On the G-33 proposal, consultations have been based on some possible elements of drafting that I developed to assist in further consideration of a “due restraint” interim solution.

Building on those draft elements, some useful progress has been made. There is convergence on the general shape of the interim solution. This envisages a decision being taken by Members in Bali not to challenge through dispute settlement compliance with Articles 6 and 7 of the Agreement on Agriculture of Developing Country Members already exceeding or at risk of exceeding their AMS commitments or the de minimis commitment as a result of their public stockholding for food security programmes, subject to certain conditions being met by the relevant Developing Country Member.

Convergence has also been emerging on the limitation of the coverage of the due restraint to public stockholding food programmes related to traditional staple food crops. There is also broad agreement on a set of notification and other transparency obligations. In the area of safeguards, Members have indicated openness to an anti-circumvention provision aimed at avoiding a situation where there would be a resulting increase in other programmes of domestic support for countries being affected by the interim solution. There is also agreement on the need to include provisions on consultations with any Member concerned about the implications of a particular public stockholding programme that would benefit from the interim solution. Other circumvention-related issues remain to be resolved, including concerns raised by some Members about situations in which the end-use of procured stocks covered by programmes is not as originally intended.

Other very important outstanding issues are duration, monitoring and the work programme for the interim solution. I believe that these issues are quite interrelated and are most productively dealt with together, which I shall do in close collaboration with the Director-General.

Turning to export competition, the last two weeks’ consultations have also seen some progress achieved. Convergence has emerged on a number of elements, particularly:

  • The reaffirmation of the Doha Round final objective on export competition;
  • The recognition of the positive trend regarding the use of export subsidies and the positive developments that have also taken place in the other fields of the export competition pillar, with Members noting that this is not a substitute for further WTO developments;
  • The recognition of the fact that the reforms undertaken by some Members in the field of export competition have contributed to a positive trend, and the importance of encouragement to all Members to pursue reforms;
  • Members also seem willing to commit to a focused annual discussion, within the Committee on Agriculture, on developments in relation to the export competition pillar.

However divergences remain around two important issues.

The first — and most significant — is the shape of a possible landing zone as regards a more specific commitment by Members in relation to the use of all forms of export subsidies and all measures with equivalent effect. Divergences remain between those Members who consider that a legally binding commitment, as proposed by the G-20, should also feature in our outcomes, and those Members who consider that such approaches are not acceptable. So, there remains no agreement in this important area at this stage.

I would, however, note that the discussions to date have underlined a shared understanding on the part of Members of the importance of the positive trend towards eliminating and disciplining export subsidies and measures with equivalent effect that should continue and that all Members should be encouraged to this end — even if the precise nature and form of words for such a commitment continues to elude us.

The other main outstanding issue is the mechanism and the related information that would be necessary to enhance transparency and improve monitoring in the field of export competition after Bali. Useful discussions on this element have been going on among Members and I am hopeful that we will see clearer convergence here soon. Clearly, in some areas, like the idea of an annual discussion in the Committee on Agriculture, we do have a strong sense of convergence. Obviously, if Members are concerned, as they seem to be, to commit to this annual discussion, it is important that it is based on relevant factual material assembled by the Secretariat — with the export competition compilation document that the Secretariat prepared this year in response to a request from the G-20 being a very useful precedent to bear in mind in this regard.

Finally, turning to the discussions on TRQ administration, I have continued to consult with Members on this proposal. As has been clear for some time, the S&D [special and differential] treatment envisaged in the underfill mechanism continues to be of concern for some Members. As I noted in my previous TNC report, some specific alternative approaches for S&D treatment have been suggested and I understand Members are continuing to pursue direct discussions with each other in this area.

This issue represents an important aspect of our work for Bali and I would urge all Members to accelerate their efforts to identify possible solutions that can be considered more widely.

Beyond these issues, I would note that I plan to convene further consultations on the G-33-Green Box “General Services” measures which formed the first element of the original G-33 proposal. Useful progress was made in this area much earlier in the year and we will need to revert to this soon as I think it continues to be seen as a useful element for reflection in Bali.

Finally, as noted by Ambassador Smidt, I would also note that in the last day the Cotton 4 have circulated a proposal which will require further consultations in the coming days.

Mindful that the clock is ticking and the countdown to Bali is well under way and working closely with the Director-General, I will be further stepping up my consultations as we move deeper into a more structured drafting phase which must be our next step. But, as I said in past meetings, consultations are not a substitute for direct Member engagement. And it is important that that engagement not only happens now but it accelerates. I will hold a meeting of the Special Session shortly to ensure transparency, and as always my door is open to any delegation who wants to come and talk to me about any concern.


Update on cotton negotiations
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(Extract from Ambassador John Adank’s report to the consultations on development assistance for cotton)

State of Play in the Cotton Negotiations

[…] Turning now specifically to cotton.  As I’m sure you know, the C4 [Cotton Four] have very recently tabled a proposal for a decision on cotton at the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali. The proposal was circulated on 24 October in document TN/AG/GEN/33 and TN/AG/SCC/GEN/12. This proposal had been announced by the LDC Group in its communication circulated in document TN/C/W/63, dated 31 May 2013.

Ambassador [Malloum Bamanga] Abbas of Chad has introduced the proposal this morning. But let me make some initial comments.

Cotton has always been an important part of the Doha negotiations since the Sectoral Initiative for Cotton was first presented in 2003. As we all know, the July 2004 Framework and the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial mandates call for cotton to be treated “ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically” within the Agriculture Negotiations.

In the same manner, the Draft Agriculture Modalities text (TN/AG/W4/Rev.4) included specific language on cotton.

It was in the same spirit that Ministers had agreed at MC-8 [eighth WTO Geneva Ministerial Conference in Geneva, 2011] on specific elements of political guidance on cotton and confirmed their commitment to on-going dialogue and engagement to progress the mandate in paragraph 11 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration to address cotton “ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically”, within the Agriculture negotiations.

But let me also be very clear: Time is running short. The C4 proposal has arrived quite late in the preparatory process for the Bali meeting. As a consequence, relevant Members will have to engage very quickly in discussions to explore possible areas of convergence relating to what could be an outcome on cotton at the Bali’s Ministerial Conference.

My intention is to commence this process as soon as possible, in consultation with the LDC Contact Point, Ambassador [Steffen] Smidt of Denmark [who also chairs the LDC Sub-Committee], given the very limited time remaining to conclude Bali preparations. […]

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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