“Ensuring an outcome on agriculture at MC12 that would contribute towards the ending of hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition was already a shared objective at the end of last year”, the chair told the meeting. “This is even more true today, as we are now at risk of facing a major food security crisis”, she added.

Chair: Members must negotiate with one another

The chair reported on her recent consultations with members, warning that the pace of negotiations has been too slow, with no progress made on key topics.

She urged members to take ownership of the talks. “Negotiations can only progress if they take place between members, and not between individual members and me,” she said.

Amb. Abraham Peralta said discussions at the WTO’s food security seminar held on 26 April could help members balance their short-term goal of a successful outcome at MC12 with their long-term objective of  a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system.

Members exchanged views on the way forward on the eight topics contained in the chair's draft negotiation text. These include domestic support to the farm sector, access to agricultural markets, and export competition — covering measures seen as having comparable effects to export subsidies. Other topics include food export restrictions and prohibitions, cotton, food bought at administered prices under public food stockholding programmes, and a proposed new “special safeguard mechanism” that would allow developing countries temporarily to raise tariffs in the event of sudden import surges or price falls. Finally, members are negotiating the cross-cutting issue of transparency.

Members reaffirmed the shared objective of ensuring food security is at the centre of any agriculture outcome at MC12. Singapore renewed a call to waive the UN World Food Programme's (WFP) food purchases from any export restrictions, saying immediate action was needed. Most members intervening in the discussions, both developing and developed, supported the call. The Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) said it favours an outcome on the WFP waiver and is willing to engage in further discussions to find language that will not jeopardize LDCs' food security.

While many members indicated they prioritise an outcome on domestic support, no signs of compromise were apparent. The LDC Group also presented their new negotiating submission in document JOB/AG/227.

Public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH)

The chair provided an update on her recent consultations on a possible permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes. She noted the challenges some developing countries say they face when buying food at administered prices as part of their public stockholding programmes. She also said the recent food security seminar improved members' understanding of the topic and provided valuable insights and inputs that could inform the negotiations. 

The LDC Group presented the approach they had taken to PSH in their new negotiating submission. While broadly similar to that taken by the African Group and the G33 group of developing countries — both active proponents of a permanent solution — it also includes some other suggestions, such as proposing that the solution covers any food purchased under PSH programmes where administered prices are set below the level of international prices.

Proponents of public stockholding supported the LDC Group's submission and underscored the importance of a permanent solution on PSH while non-proponents emphasised the relevance of other policy tools to enhance food security.

Some members asked the LDC Group to clarify elements of their submission and expressed willingness to engage in more technical discussions. The chair said she would facilitate further negotiations on this topic.

Agricultural domestic support

Several members pointed to the findings of the recent WTO-World Bank-IMF-OECD subsidies report, which shows the large amount of budgetary support for agriculture and the high concentration of subsidies in a handful of big economies. This systemic issue has to be addressed urgently, they said, as it undermines long-term food security.

A number of members continued to support the chair's draft text as the basis for an outcome at MC12. Some are seeking a more ambitious work programme focusing on future subsidy reductions that are proportionate to the amount of domestic support they are allowed to provide.

Some developing members stressed the need first to address what they see as historical imbalances in the Agreement on Agriculture by removing the entitlement of some members to provide support that exceeds “de minimis” limits. These de minimis thresholds are defined as a share of value of agricultural production and are set at different levels for developed and developing countries.

Special safeguard mechanism (SSM)

The chair highlighted the continuing differences between proponents and non-proponents on the special safeguard mechanism, with the latter group of countries linking progress in this area with the question of agricultural market access.

The LDC Group's new submission proposed what some considered an innovative approach to the issue. It suggested an “interim” outcome at MC12 to establish simplified procedures for developing and least-developed countries for the application of safeguard measures on subsidized agriculture products that unfairly compete with local products.

A few members welcomed the LDC Group's novel idea and expressed their willingness to explore it technically while some others reiterated the link between SSM and market access.

The chair asked members to continue deliberating on the new submission and indicated she would organize additional consultations as necessary.

Other topics

Members reviewed the LDC Group's proposal on cotton, which asks members to freeze their farm subsidies for cotton at 2019-2020 levels until a solution on the issue is found. Many members supported the LDC's pursuit of an outcome on cotton, while some shared concerns over the blanket carve-out proposed for all developing countries on support reduction.

Several members drew attention to export restrictions and called for enhanced transparency to enhance the predictability of the international trading system so that trade can play its role in moving food to where it is needed most, especially in the context of the on-going food security crisis. The need to take into consideration capacity constraints faced by some developing country members was also stressed. A few members maintained that prior progress on domestic support would be necessary in order to advance negotiations on the market access issue. A few members also stressed the importance of continuing the negotiation on export competition after MC12.


The chair said an upcoming informal heads of delegations meeting ahead of the 9 May General Council meeting is expected to provide more direction that could help advance the negotiations. In the meantime, negotiators should intensify their work.

“Uncertainty should not become an excuse for procrastination”, she said. She encouraged members to reflect on the state of play, seek to better understand each other’s positions, and to learn from one another. She also indicated her intention to continue meeting members in various informal and formal configurations.

The next agriculture negotiation meeting is scheduled for 19 May.


Background information on the agriculture negotiations is available here.

The agriculture glossary is available here.




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