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
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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: Revised draft modalities (February, May, July and December)
“It’s fair to say that discussions are entering a more interactive stage than in past exchanges,” the chairman, Ambassador John Adank (New Zealand) told delegations at the conclusion of a meeting at which some 40 delegations representing a broad swath of the membership took the floor to offer their views on the state of play in the market access negotiations.
We are a long way from where we should be, given the July deadline for the finalisation of our work programMembers agreed at the WTO’s December 2013 Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia to prepare a “clearly defined work program” for concluding the Doha Round of trade talks. The work program is to be finalized by the end of July.
Most of the interventions focused on the proposed formulas for reducing tariffs on farm imports. In particular, members gave their views on an earlier communication from the chairman circulated in late May in which he cited a growing willingness among members to explore alternatives to the tariff reduction approach set out in the 2008 chairman’s draft text on agriculture.
The chairman said that concrete proposals regarding tariff reduction approaches have been put forward by Argentina, Paraguay and Norway. Other approaches have also been suggested, although none have been outlined in specific proposals at this stage.
However, discussions on these alternative approaches over the past weeks “have not revealed any clear collective preferences,” and a range of concerns have also been raised with respect to alternatives.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, we are at the stage where members will need to make choices in order to achieve the objectives set out for us by Ministers” of securing a work program by the end of July for advancing the Doha Round talks, the chairman said. “Discussions now need to move to a more decisive phase.”
Use these links to download the audio files or to listen to what he said in the meeting:
The chair’s statements:
Following the interventions from members, the chairman drew the following conclusions:
- The market access work “is not something that can occur in isolation from all the work that continues on the other pillars of the negotiation,” i.e. domestic support and export competition. Work in those areas continues, but members need to recognize that an open discussion is needed to move forward in other areas, without prejudice to existing positions.
- The market access discussions are “entering a more interactive stage than we’ve had in some of our past exchanges… We saw that today in a number of exchanges where countries that have completely different views on agricultural market access basically came out and said they were prepared to have that exploration, so I’m encouraged by that.”
- Many members made clear their preference again for the tiered formula in the 2008 draft text. At the same time, some said that unless things change very significantly, it is unlikely there will be consensus on that approach.
- In regards to the alternative “averaging” approaches that have been suggested, “I don’t think we can come to any clear conclusion on any particular approach overall.” Some members prefer a cut of the overall average, some prefer an average cut of tariffs, and some indicated they are flexible on the two approaches.
- The notion of the “request-offer” that features in the Argentine and Paraguayan proposals could be useful in terms of transparency or as a supplementary approach.
- Members have made it clear that they want to know more about what the alternative approaches might involve. In addition, members have asked a number of questions about whether elements such as minimum cuts, special products, tariff rate quotas (TRQs), tariff peaks and caps, safeguards, and others would fit into any of the alternatives. “I think there’s a need to improve our technical understanding in this whole area of market access,” the chairman said, suggesting that the WTO Secretariat provide additional technical background information on tariff reduction approaches for members.
Ambassador Adank concluded by welcoming the move into a “new stage” of discussion on market access issues. He encouraged members to “continue to talk about this in preparation for the further discussions and consultations that we will have to have.”
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