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.



Reporting on the latest state of play in the negotiations, Ambassador Karau told the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture in special session that a recent informal meeting of trade ministers in Marrakesh, Morocco, “gave us a welcomed impetus to press ahead at this critical juncture”.  Nevertheless, “a lot of work however remains to be done,” he added.

“It is now time to translate the engagement demonstrated in Marrakesh by our ministers and the shared willingness to have success at MC11 into concrete actions,” Ambassador Karau said. 

“To prepare the ground for success at MC11, it should be our objective to submit to ministers a limited number of issues for their consideration,” he stressed. “This implies that we need to intensify our work here in Geneva and close as many gaps as possible in the negotiating positions of members on the issues. Put differently, our objective should be to submit to ministers a clear understanding of what can be envisaged as agricultural outcomes at MC11, with as few as possible points left open for negotiation by ministers."

Domestic support

The chair said the issue of domestic support “remains the priority for the vast majority of members and was one of the main issues discussed at the Marrakesh meeting.  Two new proposals were presented to the 19-20 October committee meeting reflect this engagement:  one from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of members and a second from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Chile and Paraguay.

Nevertheless, “important gaps still remain in the positions of members on the negotiating issues,” the chair said, with delegations still broadly divided between those favoring a limit on overall trade-distorting support (OTDS) and those that believe the “amber box” support (also known as the Aggregate Measure of Support, or AMS) should be eliminated first. This latter approach is reflected in the new ACP proposal.  Concerns were expressed that some of the proposals on the table would require some members to undertake disproportionate commitments, while others stressed the need for all members to make a contribution. In regards to proposals for OTDS limits, some members voiced concerns about the lack of disciplines on product-specific support and sensitivities regarding support specific to developing countries, the chair said.

The divisions were reflected in the members’ comments that followed.  Proponents of the “AMS first” approach argued that eliminating these supports would remove one of the biggest imbalances in the current farm trade rules by obliging the biggest subsidizers to reduce their special entitlements.  They also expressed strong concern about the efforts of some proponents of the OTDS approach to link an outcome on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH) to an outcome on domestic support.  On the other hand, some members consider that this link is necessary to find a permanent solution to the PSH issue. 

OTDS proponents said their approach was balanced, would ensure sufficient flexibilities for all, and that no member would be obliged to make any immediate policy changes.  The OTDS approach would also oblige the biggest subsidizers to make the biggest cuts in their current entitlements while avoiding some of the “extreme” demands of the “AMS first" proponents.


The chair noted that a new proposal from the “Cotton Four” (C4)— Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali — was circulated to members in advance of the meeting.  Some members felt the proposal, which calls for sharp reductions in domestic support for cotton, was too ambitious while others asked the C4 to clarify some elements of the proposal, including the proposed treatment of developing country members, the chair said.

The discussion that followed reflected the chair’s readout. Proponents insisted the C4 proposal was realistic and would lead to tangible outcomes benefitting poor farmers while others said the proposal was not realistic.  One member underlined the need for adequate flexibility in favour of developing countries to address the needs of its small-scale farmers.

Export restrictions and prohibitions

The chair said discussions thus far on this issue have confirmed that many members support a limited outcome, mainly focused on enhancing transparency in members’ export prohibitions and restrictions. Most members consider an outcome on export prohibitions and restrictions could not be envisaged in the absence of a more comprehensive outcome in the agricultural negotiations overall, he added.

Israel, Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Chinese Taipei presented a new submission setting out complementary elements to the earlier disciplines on export prohibitions and restrictions proposed by Singapore in July. Members' preliminary reactions to this new submission were mixed.

Market access

The chair said there was acknowledgement among the members, including the proponents, that a substantive outcome in market access may not be feasible at MC11 and that the best possible outcome that may be expected at Buenos Aires would be a detailed post-MC11 work programme.

Special Agricultural Safeguard

The Russian Federation put forward a new proposal calling for the phase-out and eventual elimination of special safeguards (SSGs) permitted under Article 5 of the Agreement on Agriculture.  The goal is to create a level playing field between established members that can use SSGs and newer members that cannot. Russia said members should agree at MC11 on final dates for the elimination of SSGs. The Russian Federation also included in the proposal a limited negotiating window for members to access or improve the SSG mechanism until it is eliminated by all.  

Members offered different views on the proposal, with a number of developing countries voicing support for the initiative while others cited the need to maintain SSGs in the absence of broader market access reforms.

Next steps

Summing up the discussions on these issues, the chair said his objective will be to have intensive discussions on what can be achieved at MC11 under each of the headings and move into text-based negotiations as soon as practicable.  He urged members to come up with compromise texts which could help bridge the gaps in the negotiations but said if texts are not forthcoming, he stood ready to do so.  He warned members to be prepared for many meetings in the coming weeks.

Public stockholding for food security purposes

The chair said recent consultations on the PSH issue showed recognition of the need to have an outcome by the end of the year; however, members have divergent positions on almost all the issues and will need to bridge these gaps in the few remaining weeks left before MC11.  The differences concern product, programme and  country coverage;  transparency; and safeguards preventing excess stocks procured under PSH programmes from being offloaded on global markets.

Two proposals are currently on the table:

1) A Proposed Permanent Solution on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes by the G33 group of developing country members;

2) A Proposal On Domestic Support, Public Stockholding For Food Security Purposes And Cotton by Brazil, EU, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay

While G33 members consider that their proposal should be the basis for the negotiations, many members feel the second proposal offers a better way forward, the chair said.  This also raises the issue of linkages between PSH and domestic support, which is rejected by one side but considered necessary by the other.  In addition, several members said they would prefer a solution based on the 2015 Bali Decision setting out an interim solution to the PSH issue, while others see the differences as too far apart to be resolved in the little time remaining.

The Russian Federation said it would shortly be putting forward a proposal on PSH aimed at preventing exports of surplus PSH food stocks from harming the interests of other members.

Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM)

The chair said the situation regarding the SSM has not changed substantially since he last reported to members in early September. Some members still want an outcome on this issue, even if partial, by MC11 and one member indicated it will be difficult to have a successful meeting in Buenos Aires without a substantive outcome on SSM; in contrast, a number of other members made it absolutely clear that such an outcome was unrealistic in the absence of a broader outcome which included market access.




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