The first draft negotiation text was introduced on 29 July, with the chair proposing suggestions for a possible agriculture package at MC12. The text encompasses the seven main negotiation topics — domestic support, market access, export restrictions, export competition, cotton, public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH) and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) as well as cross-cutting transparency issues. The chair emphasized the draft was based on members' discussions as well as her consultations in various configurations and served as a starting point for the final text-based negotiation phase before MC12.

Intensive consultations in various configurations have taken place since September as the chair has sought feedback on the text and facilitated a process to close gaps in members' positions. The chair has repeatedly stressed the core values of transparency and inclusiveness in this process and called on members to exercise flexibility as she deliberated on a revised text.

At the meeting on 15 November, addressing the next step in the negotiations, the chair announced her plan to release the revised negotiation text as soon as possible.

The chair also reported to WTO members on the state of play in the negotiations. She said the most recent consultations have focused on engaging members to find convergences on three primary issues: domestic support, public stockholding for food security purposes and to a lesser extent market access. As no major shifts in positions have occurred, members need to urgently bridge differences and adjust their ambitions on these key issues, she said. She also called on members to find landing zones on other topics — export competition, export restrictions, cotton, the SSM and transparency, which are integral parts for a balanced agriculture outcome at MC12, she stressed.

Mindful of the imminent Ministerial Conference, members outlined their main priorities in the negotiations, while recognizing the persistent divergences among them. Some members suggested that, for some issues, a general framework for a programme that guides the post-MC12 work would be a pragmatic approach in order to avoid going into contentious specificities. Other members reiterated the need to have a meaningful outcome setting a clear direction for post-MC12 negotiations. Members also reaffirmed that a meaningful MC12 outcome on agriculture will address the compelling issue of food and livelihood security in light of the pandemic and commit members to continuing agricultural reform to make the agriculture trading system fit for purpose.

Singapore presented a paper outlining its responses to the questions posed by India regarding an initiative that calls for exempting the World Food Programme's humanitarian food purchases from any export restriction. The initiative has gained wide support from most members and was described by many as a “low-hanging fruit” for MC12.

The chair said the revised negotiation text will be released soon, while noting that all options remained on the table. One more agriculture negotiation meeting might be scheduled for 24-25 November, after the General Council meeting on 22-23 November, if necessary. Noting the extremely short time remaining before MC12, she urged members to engage in more constructive communications with each other and inform her of progress.




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