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 
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 Chair of the agriculture negotiations, New Zealand Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis, briefed members on recent consultations he held, noting that there appeared to be a shared understanding that members wanted to work for agriculture-related outcomes for the WTO 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017. He reported that members were also committed to delivering expectations set out in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration and Decisions, as well as continuing agricultural reform with reference to the built-in reform agenda in Article 20 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

Members stressed that the WTO remains the primary forum to collectively address subsidies and ensure open markets in agriculture. The Nairobi decision to eliminate agriculture export subsidies and disciplines on other forms of export support has been a significant step in the reform process. The Ministerial Decision on Cotton was identified both by the Chair and many members as an important step forward in the negotiations, though it was widely acknowledged that more work was needed.

However, members recognized that the reform is far from complete. Ambassador Vitalis reported that his consultations suggested that members had six broad areas of ongoing interest for the negotiations, including that:

  • The Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing countries and a permanent solution on public stockholding remain top priorities for some members.
  • Reduction or elimination of trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture, including in cotton emerged as the clear priority for many members, and many signaled that the WTO serves as a primary forum to work on this area.
  • Negotiations to further open markets for agriculture products remain important for a large group of members.
  • Implementation of the Ministerial Decision on Export Competition will be monitored by the WTO Committee on Agriculture. At the same time, some members signal the need to further work in the area.
  • Several members observed the importance to negotiate across all pillars of agriculture, as part of the wider agriculture reform agenda set out in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.
  • Finally, some other issues in agriculture were raised, for example export restrictions, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, private standards in agriculture products, and subsidies for biofuel and bio-energy.

Ambassador Vitalis suggested that the way ahead should be characterized as ‘defining by doing’ and advised members he would hold another round of consultations to work with members on the content as well as the format of the continuing discussions. He encouraged members to talk with each other and to share more information.

Click here to view the full text of the Chair’s remarks.

For more background on the negotiations, please consult:

More on WTO negotiation groups

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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