The new document updates an earlier draft negotiating text, circulated in July, covering  domestic support, market access, export competition, export restrictions, cotton, public stockholding for food security purposes, the special safeguard mechanism and the cross-cutting issue of transparency. The revised text also contains a new introductory section.

Bridging the gaps

The chair underscored the urgency of bridging the remaining gaps in negotiating positions ahead of the Ministerial Conference. “This text reflects the reality of where we are today. It acknowledges the current state of play in members' positions and the difficulties we face in building convergence or narrowing the gaps on some key issues,” she said.

For this reason, the draft text revises the level of ambition across all negotiating topics, she said. The chair acknowledged that many members would therefore be disappointed that their initial aspirations for the level of ambition were not reflected in the new draft.

She also told members that the revised draft text represented her best efforts to put on the table a “balanced and realistic package”. “All members' positions have to be respected and balanced in a fair manner,” she told the meeting.

The chair stressed that the text did not represent the end of the road for the negotiations but was intended to be a confidence-building milestone to reinvigorate the negotiation process towards MC13 and future ministerial conferences.

“My sincere hope is that this text constitutes a significant step forward in the right direction to help ministers in their task at MC12,” she said.

Members’ reactions

During the meeting, delegations shared their preliminary reactions to the revised draft text.  Many members commended the chair’s leadership and the intensive consultations she had held in recent weeks. Several also highlighted their disappointment with what they saw as an insufficient level of ambition on the topics of most concern to them, with delegations highlighting domestic support, public stockholding for food security purposes and market access.

Some members offered specific suggestions for further modifications to the draft while many also explicitly supported the new text as the basis for ongoing negotiations. Several delegations, despite expressing their disappointment with the level of ambition on specific topics, said the draft reflects the current reality and provides good guidance for MC12. A few also warned against making last-minute proposals which could complicate ministers’ work at MC12.

Several developing members expressed their concern that the revised draft text proposes language on public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH) which falls far short of their ambitions. They underscored the importance of agreeing a “permanent solution” due to the difficulties that some developing countries say they face under WTO rules when buying food at administered prices as part of these programmes.

In particular, some members of the G33 group of developing countries reiterated their request for the chair to transmit to ministers their proposal on this topic for consideration at MC12. Other members said the G33's proposal had not gathered sufficient support, and that it would therefore be counterproductive to present it for ministers’ attention. In the absence of any convergence on this issue, the draft text anticipates that members agree to adopt a work programme on this topic, with a view to agreeing on a permanent solution by the 13th Ministerial Conference.

Underlying many interventions was the question of the relationship between food security and trade rules, with some members arguing that food security was a multifaceted challenge that required a comprehensive approach. Some other members on the other hand questioned the way food security was addressed in the introductory part of the chair's draft text.  

Members’ views also differed on the draft text on agricultural domestic support. Developed and developing countries from the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters said they were disappointed that the draft no longer contains clear numerical goals and timelines for cutting subsidies (such as the group’s proposal to halve trade-distorting domestic support by 2030, i.e. the completion date for the Sustainable Development Goals). One member said it reserved the right to propose further amendments to the text in this area due to its paramount importance to future negotiations.

Some members also argued that certain support categories should be clearly excluded from negotiations, such as subsidies for low-income and resource-poor producers that are provided under Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture and subsidies that cause no or minimal trade distortion (i.e. “green box” support).

Some developing countries reiterated their view that cuts to support should be “sequenced”, with members first cutting support that exceeds the “de minimis” thresholds expressed as a percentage of the value of production. However, other members repeated their opposition to this approach, and flagged their dissatisfaction with the text’s lower ambition on market access.

Members also continued to differ in their approach to proposed measures to enhance and streamline transparency. Proponents of higher ambition expressed their dissatisfaction with the text, while some developing members said they were concerned that new commitments in this area could be too burdensome for them.

The C-4 group of West African cotton-producing countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) welcomed language on transparency in the revised draft text but cautioned that it did not specify how trade-distorting domestic support for cotton would be cut. The group indicated they would consult their ministers on how to proceed.

Many members reaffirmed their commitment to a multilateral agreement at MC12 that would exempt from export restrictions the food purchased for humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme. As a few members continue to express reservations about an outcome in this area, some textual changes were also suggested at the meeting.

Members' views also differed on the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) — a tool that would enable developing countries to temporarily increase tariffs to counter import surges and prices drops and on which the chair suggested a work programme involving intensified technical engagement after MC12. While some proponents considered the proposal as insufficiently ambitious, some non-proponents criticized the suggested timeframe in light of the intrinsic linkage in their views between the SSM and market access.

Next steps

Concluding the meeting, the chair told members that a successful outcome was within reach if members continue to demonstrate commitment, goodwill and flexibility.

She said she remained open to meeting any member who would like to speak to her and indicated that she would also consider holding further consultations if necessary.


Background information on the agriculture negotiations is available here.

The agriculture glossary is available here.




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