A special event was held on 17 March to mark the milestone moment of the Committee's 100th session.
COVID-19 and agriculture; impact on net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs)
In continuation of the discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on agriculture, members reviewed the update provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, G/AG/GEN/199/Rev.1 ), the International Grains Council (IGC, G/AG/GEN/197), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, G/AG/GEN/194) and the World Food Programme (WFP, G/AG/GEN/195).
Some members shared their concerns that on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation in the Black Sea basin could further disrupt supply chains, inflate food prices, and exacerbate global hunger and food insecurity, dealing a significant blow to the NFIDCs. Acknowledging a detailed report (G/AG/GEN/198 and Corr.1) by the FAO on the food security challenges faced by least-developed countries and NFIDCs, they echoed the call by the FAO to shore up support for the G7 Agriculture Ministers' statement on 11 March, which urged all countries to refrain from any export-restrictive measures and to keep agriculture markets open.
One NFIDC aired deep concerns over food price hikes and indicated the need for more food aid. It asked members to include beneficiaries' information in their food aid notifications.
The chair encouraged members to be transparent about their COVID-19 agricultural measures and made reference to the relevant work at the WTO Secretariat, including a dedicated page on the WTO website. All ad hoc reports on members' COVID-19 measures have been compiled in G/AG/W/209/Rev.1.
Many members took the floor to express their strong opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian delegate responded by saying that the WTO was not the proper venue for a discussion of this nature.
Reviewing members' agricultural policies to ensure WTO compliance
23 new issues were raised as members dig deeper into each other's farm policies in relation to the three pillars of agriculture trade: market access, domestic support and export competition. Several members' export-restrictive measures, India's multiple farm policies, the United Kingdom’s forest risk commodities provisions and various farm support measures by Canada, the Russian Federation and the United States were put in the spotlight.
For the 21 recurring issues, members continued to push for answers, notably concerning Canada's dairy policies, the European Union's environmental and deforestation policies, India's pulse policies and various stockpiling programmes, as well as the United States' farm support in response to the pandemic.
Members also availed the opportunity to seek clarities on individual notifications regarding tariff quota administration, special agricultural safeguards, domestic support, export subsidy, export restrictions and donor members’ food aid policies. Most questions were raised on domestic support, with 15 members quizzed on their domestic support notifications to the WTO. All questions submitted for the meeting are available in G/AG/W/217 and Corr.1. All questions and replies received are available on the WTO's Agriculture Information Management System (AG IMS).
Follow-up on the Nairobi Decision on export competition
Members adopted the draft report (G/AG/33) of the second triennial review of the Nairobi Export Competition Decision, which commits WTO members to eliminate farm subsidies contingent on export. This decision was described by the WTO Director-General at the time as the most significant outcome on agriculture since the WTO was established in 1995.
The triennial review report summarized members' discussions since the last triennial review, and provided recommendations to encourage full engagement in the Export Competition Questionnaire (ECQ) and to streamline and enhance transparency on this.
To brace for the annual dedicated discussion on export competition to monitor the implementation of the Nairobi Decision in June, the chair urged members to submit their replies to the ECQ before 31 March, for which all members, developing and developed, have been required to participate since 2021, following the end of the grace period for developing members. The new ECQ online submission tool has made good progress and the Secretariat will invite members to test the prototype in the coming weeks, the chair said.
Several members answered questions at the meeting regarding their policies on export competition. These questions may be consulted in G/AG/W/217. All questions and replies received are available in the WTO's Agriculture Information Management System (AG IMS).
With regard to members' compliance of incorporating the elimination of export subsidies into their WTO schedules of commitments, Brazil certified its revised draft schedule on 28 January 2022 (WT/LET/1560). Among the 16 members with export subsidy reduction commitments, 13 have seen their revised schedules certified (i.e. accepted by all WTO members) while two members — Canada and the European Union — await certification of their draft schedules circulated in 2017. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet circulated its revised export subsidy schedule.
Members also conducted the annual consultation with respect to their participation in the normal growth of world trade on agricultural products within the framework of commitments on export subsidies. A background document G/AG/W/32/Rev.20 was prepared by the Secretariat to facilitate the discussion.
Bali tariff rate quota underfill mechanism
The Bali tariff rate quota (TRQ) Decision was discussed in the informal session on 15 March. Due to the lingering concerns from one member over the allegedly missing special and differential treatment element in the draft decision, the chair announced the suspension of the agenda item for a few days. He plans to organize more consultations in the coming days, paying a last-ditch effort to resolve the differences before the deadline of 31 March.
The unfinished business on the matter was pertaining to the future operation of paragraph 4 of the underfill mechanism, for which there was no agreement among members during the 2017-19 review of the implementation of the Bali TRQ decision. As per the agreed recommendations of the review approved by the General Council in 2019, the deadline to reach an agreement on this outstanding issue is the end of 2021, which then further extended to 31 March 2022.
Enhancing transparency in the Committee
The chair highlighted two elements regarding transparency in the Committee: (i) timeliness and completeness of notifications submitted by members; and (ii) the importance of timely and complete responses to questions raised in the review process. The chair encouraged members to redouble efforts to improve their compliance with notification obligations. G/AG/GEN/86/Rev.44, and G/AG/W/204/Rev.5 reflects, respectively, the current status of members' compliance with notification obligations and the list of outstanding responses to questions raised at the Committee during 2013-2021.
Pursuant to the Committee's mandates to monitor annually the follow-up to the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs), members conducted the monitor exercise based on the Secretariat's background document G/AG/W/42/Rev.22, a collection of information on donor members' contributions in support of NFIDCs.
Members also reviewed the list of NIFDCs. No further changes were made to the list in document G/AG/5/Rev.11.
A special event to mark the 100th session of the Committee on Agriculture was held on 17 March. In her opening remarks, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hailed the Committee's achievements over the past 27 years and highlighted its important role in overseeing implementation of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Old and new chairs, delegates and representatives of other international organizations participated in the meeting.
The next meeting of the Committee on Agriculture is scheduled for 27-28 June 2022.
More information on the work of the Committee on Agriculture is available here.
Visual introduction of the Committee
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