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.

The official record is in the meeting’s minutes.



The Chair of the Agriculture Committee, Ambassador John Deep Ford (Guyana), said many WTO members were of the view that “agriculture should remain at the centre of any reform” and had “even stressed that agriculture was the only reason for them to be part of the WTO”. To establish a common understanding on specific issues, he encouraged members to reach out to each other in “a spirit of compromise, flexibility and creativity”.

Members responded to new submissions from the United States, China and India, Paraguay and Uruguay, the G33 group, and some members of the Cairns Group. They also outlined their negotiation priorities regarding various agriculture issues in response to the questions raised by the Chair in the convening fax.

Summing up the discussions, the Chair stated that he had been encouraged by members’ engagement and strongly believed “there is commitment by all members to achieve agriculture reforms”. He noted that the centrality of agriculture reforms had been emphasized by most members and that there were calls for members to redouble their efforts and find solutions to the challenges being faced in the negotiations.

The need for neutral and factual analysis and up-to-date notifications was highlighted by several members, the Chair said. The importance of information-sharing via workshops and seminars was also mentioned. Several members underlined the need for preliminary technical work to be undertaken by experts to inform the negotiation process.

Domestic support

The Chair said "for most members, domestic support remains the priority issue and the centre piece of the agriculture negotiations". 

India and China's joint submission calls for the elimination of product-specific trade-distorting domestic support – known as aggregate measurement of support (AMS)  - above the de minimis levels (minimal amounts of domestic support that are allowed even though they distort trade) for developed members in four incremental steps, with the objective of "reducing the distortions in agriculture trade and asymmetries in the Agreement on Agriculture". Currently, 32 WTO members have a scheduled AMS limit (i.e. a final bound total for AMS) that allows them to provide product-specific AMS above de minimis.

A submission by some Cairns Group members (a group of agriculture exporting countries) examined the existing agriculture domestic support categories in the Agreement on Agriculture, particularly those relevant to Article 6 and Annex 2, in order to better understand the situation and "inform the development of new and effective rules on domestic support".

Members provided preliminary remarks on these two submissions and commended the efforts made by the proponents.


Speaking on behalf of the Cotton 4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali), Benin reminded members of the mandate to address trade distortions in the sector “ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically”. Benin thanked members who had recently submitted papers on domestic support and called again for updated data on all trade-distorting support measures.

The Chair acknowledged that cotton is an area of prime interest for many WTO members. He reported that some members had suggested that an incremental output could be feasible in this area.

The Chair urged all members to submit timely notifications and to reply to the WTO Secretariat's biannual questionnaires on cotton so as to ensure up-to-date information is available on members' cotton policies, values of production and domestic support levels.

Market access

The United States emphasized the need for a better understanding of members' current tariff regimes and their impact on global agricultural trade. Its paper focused on six specific areas, including binding overhang, tariff peaks, complex tariffs and issues related to tariff quotas (TRQs).  In another submission on market access, Paraguay and Uruguay described possible negotiating approaches and challenges for tariff reforms. 

The discussions during the meeting revealed signs of willingness among members to engage in market access issues. The linkage between market access and other agriculture issues was frequently highlighted by WTO members. While some stressed the importance of market access as a means of providing a balancing role in the negotiations, others believed that achieving progress in domestic support might be necessary before engaging actively in market access.

Export competition

Export competition was considered by some members as “unfinished business” in the areas of international food aid, state trading enterprises and export finance following the decision taken at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in 2015.

Export restrictions

Many members said that improved transparency in the way members notify export restrictions and exemption of foodstuffs purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes from the application of such measures could constitute a possible deliverable for the negotiations. Some concerns were reiterated by other delegations.

Public stockholding for food security purposes

Indonesia presented a submission by the G33 Group (a coalition of developing countries) which summarized its negotiation priorities, including on public stockholding for food security purposes. The G33 submission highlighted the need to address the inequities inherited from the Uruguay Round and urged members to redouble their efforts to work towards a permanent solution for this issue.

The proponents expressed disappointment that the deadline agreed at the 2015 Bali Ministerial Conference to find a permanent solution for public stockholding had been missed and urged members to continue working on the issue, with a view to delivering an outcome at the next Ministerial Conference. Some members advocated that existing and future stockholding programmes should be covered by any permanent arrangement.

The Chair asked proponents to submit a detailed and substantive paper on public stockholding, and to be prepared to address any questions from members as to why a permanent arrangement is needed. He also urged more engagement and “problem-solving debates” on this topic in order to achieve a tangible outcome.

Special Safeguard Mechanism

The G33 listed the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) as one of their priorities for the next Ministerial Conference.  Noting the importance of the SSM for developing members and its link to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the G33 called for members' active engagement in this issue and stated that no linkage should be made to market access in the discussions.

Some developing members said that an SSM is necessary to give policy space to members when dealing with price fluctuations and import surges. On the other hand, some members viewed introducing an SSM as a step back from opening trade and therefore said it could only be considered in the context of further market access reform.

Having observed "two poles of deep divergence", the Chair encouraged members to consult among themselves on the way forward. Members were urged to not only outline the technical substance of the issues but, more importantly, to address the obstacles.

Next step

The Chair welcomed members' willingness to resume substantive work despite the persistence of differences on prerequisites, linkages and sequencing for the negotiations.

A more intensive meeting schedule will be circulated to guide the post-summer break negotiations, the Chair indicated.

“With hard work, increased flexibilities and enhanced engagement, creativity will flourish and we should make progress towards an outcome at MC12 and/or beyond,” said the Chair.




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