Delegates took the floor to pay tribute to Ambassador Abraham Peralta for her leadership, dedication and hard work over the last two years. They also praised her contributions to the important milestones achieved at MC12 — the adoption of the declaration on the emergency response to food insecurity and the decision on the exemption of UN's World Food Programme (WFP) food purchases from export prohibitions or restrictions. The full list of MC12 outcomes is available here.
Ambassador Abraham Peralta was the first woman to serve as chair of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, which deals with agriculture negotiations, since the body was established in 2001.
Chair: Build on the good work done
The chair began by highlighting members' collective achievements at the June ministerial meeting. “MC12 was a great success for the WTO. It demonstrated the ability of the WTO to deliver results for people across the world,” she told the meeting. At the same time, the absence of an outcome in the agriculture negotiations at MC12 accentuates the fact that “considerable work remains to be done.”
Ambassador Abraham Peralta looked back at the committee's work since she began chairing the negotiations in July 2020. “These two years have been enriching and rewarding,” she said.
During that period, members have worked intensively, putting forward 40 written submissions and holding close to 130 meetings. The chair also put forward draft negotiating texts for members to consider in July 2021, November 2021 and June 2022 — the first such attempts to do so in over a decade.
She also told trade officials at the meeting not to throw away the good work they had done, but to build on it going forward. “There is a goldmine of ideas,” she told delegates, urging them to draw inspiration from the past as they seek to overcome obstacles and move forward.
Ambassador Abraham Peralta laid out in detail the status of each negotiating topic and suggested four ways in which members could advance the talks in the future (JOB/AG/237). She underscored the importance of strengthening evidence-based discussions in the committee and of building on the work that had already been done. She also emphasized the need to ensure negotiations respond to both old and new challenges, such as food insecurity and climate change, and to explore new ways of working that could help move the talks forward.
The chair stressed that the way in which negotiations resume in the coming months will be critical, as it will set in motion the trajectory of negotiations towards the next Ministerial Conference (MC13). In that vein, she welcomed the idea of a retreat to help members brainstorm ideas and chart a new path forward, as suggested by Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at an informal Heads of Delegation meeting on 7 July.
Members should look at each negotiation topic with fresh eyes and “also look at our negotiating processes — what works, what doesn't work, and why; and what other avenues could be explored,” she added.
Many members welcomed the two MC12 outcomes on food security, which they said sent a positive signal about the WTO’s ability to provide a timely response to crises. Singapore shared a message from the WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley, who said the decision on the agency’s food purchases “will ensure that critical relief reaches the most vulnerable populations when and where needed”.
Some also called for action to be taken to give effect to the declaration on the emergency response to food insecurity, urging others to keep trade open and refrain from applying export restrictions not in compliance with WTO rules.
Many told the meeting that they were disappointed that ministers at MC12 had failed to agree on how the negotiations should move forward, as there had been no consensus on the draft text put forward by the chair and the Director-General (WT/MIN(22)/W/19). They echoed the chair's view that the impasse meant members should now revamp the negotiations and adopt new approaches.
Some said the agriculture negotiations should not address topics in silos and that members should identify a few common problems across all areas. Some also proposed bringing in expert opinions from other organizations to better inform the negotiations. Some members agreed with the chair that the negotiations at the WTO should take better account of the public policy context, including climate change, sustainable development challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic and food security.
Some members highlighted the severe food security and nutrition challenges experienced by net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs) and least developed countries (LDCs) in particular. They called for urgent action under the work programme that had been agreed at MC12. They reiterated the importance of making the agricultural trading system fairer, improving domestic production and productivity, and boosting resilience to shocks.
Several developing country groups and members emphasised the importance of finding a permanent solution to the problems that some developing countries say they face regarding WTO farm subsidy rules when buying food at administered prices under public stockholding programmes for food security purposes (PSH). They also urged members to fast-track talks on a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to enable developing countries to raise tariffs temporarily in the event of a surge in imports or a drop in prices. Several members highlighted other priority issues for future negotiations, such as domestic support reduction, market access and cotton.
Members also supported the idea of a retreat after the summer break to revitalise negotiations.
Background information on the agriculture negotiations is available here.
The agriculture glossary is available here.
Problems viewing this page? If so, please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.