“We are on the verge of something positive,” the Director-General told the meeting. She once again urged members to show restraint in their comments, with a view to improving prospects for reaching consensus on the texts before the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which begins on 12 June.
The chair said the four-page document further streamlined the three draft negotiating texts, which comprise a draft ministerial decision on agricultural trade, a draft ministerial declaration on trade and food security, and a draft ministerial decision on exempting from export restrictions food purchased by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes.
Chair: The revised texts are realistic and aim to guide the way forward
The chair emphasized that the revised document does not accommodate all the comments from members, as some positions are too far apart to be reconciled. The new draft texts formed the basis of a realistic outcome that would be able to guide further negotiations after the Ministerial Conference, while meaningfully responding to the ongoing food crisis.
She said the revised draft decision on agricultural trade sought to strike a balance across negotiating topics, without prejudicing any future proposals that members might want to table for discussion.
Most of the comments made by members on the draft ministerial declaration on food security had been taken on board, the chair said. On one of the most debated issues, the current language underscores the need for agri-food products to flow while reaffirming existing WTO provisions on the imposition of export prohibitions and restrictions.
The chair also noted that new language in the draft ministerial declaration on WFP food aid purchases made clear that measures adopted by members to ensure their food security shall be in accordance with the relevant provisions of WTO agreements.
Many members agreed that the revised versions of the three texts maintain the overall balance, despite reducing the level of ambition on all negotiating topics. They indicated that the drafts could be accepted as the basis for a final package on food and agriculture for consideration at MC12, and also provided some suggestions on how they thought language in specific areas could be improved.
Some members expressed the view that the new draft text on agricultural trade — the most contentious part of the package — insufficiently reflects their priorities, with domestic support and public stockholding for food security purposes among the topics highlighted in particular by various delegations who took the floor.
Many members emphasised that an MC12 outcome on food security was urgently needed as part of the WTO's response to the challenges faced in this area in the world today. Many members supported the draft declaration on food security and put forward some suggestions on how they considered it could be improved.
A few members told the meeting that they still had reservations about the draft ministerial declaration on WFP food aid. Several members said they favoured a simple and clear declaration and are ready to seek a plurilateral decision on this matter if consensus cannot be reached at the multilateral level.
Some members said their capitals are reviewing the revised draft texts and will submit more comprehensive feedback in the coming days.
The chair said she will further revise the draft texts to take the comments made into consideration, and will consult members further on possible ways forward.
The next agriculture negotiation meeting is tentatively scheduled for this week, with the date to be decided soon.
Background information on the agriculture negotiations is available here.
The agriculture glossary is available here.