Mr Marcel Vernooij from the Netherlands facilitated the discussion. Mr Kjetil Tysdal from Norway was elected as the new chair of the committee and coordinator of the work programme on food security for least-developed countries (LDCs) and net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs).
Completion of the review of the Bali TRQ Decision
At the meeting, consensus was reached on the report on the first triennial review of the operation of the Bali Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) Decision, marking the successful conclusion of several rounds of discussions that started in 2022. The agreed conclusions of the review primarily focus on the transparency of country-specific tariff quota utilization and quota administration arrangements.
Mr Vernooij reminded members of the work that lies ahead, emphasizing that the implementation of the Bali TRQ Decision will remain an ongoing topic of conversation in the committee.
Response to food insecurity, pandemic impact
The committee continued to discuss how to implement the MC12 declaration on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the MC12 declaration on food security.
Members heard updated analyses on food markets and the prospect for global food security from the World Food Programme (WFP, G/AG/GEN/221), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), the International Monetary Fund(IMF) and the World Bank Group.
Both the WFP and FAO highlighted the severity of hunger and malnutrition as well as the enduring impact of the historical food insecurity crisis in certain hunger hotspots, particularly in LDCs and NFIDCs. The WFP specifically mentioned the positive effects of the MC12 decision , which exempts the WFP's food purchases for humanitarian aid from any export restrictions. It noted that the number of source countries has increased from 91 to 101, resulting in faster and more localized procurement processes.
The IMF and the World Bank emphasized their intensified efforts to provide urgent financial support to countries in need and facilitate investments to enhance long-term resilience and transform the agri-food system. The IMF stated that six members have already benefited from financing support through its Food Shock Window launched last year. Members expressed appreciation for the continued efforts of these international organizations in addressing the acute global food security crisis.
Considering the alarming global food insecurity crisis, some members expressed concerns and stressed the importance of cooperation between international organizations. They called for greater predictability in the Black Sea Grain Deal, which has played a vital role in stabilizing the global market and reducing food prices.
Mr. Vernooij, the current coordinator of the new work programme on food security for LDCs and NFIDCs, provided an update on the recent progress of the initiative. The work programme was established in November 2022 in accordance with the MC12 mandate. Members welcomed the steady progress achieved and eagerly anticipated the forthcoming report, which will be circulated by Mr Vernooij prior to the next working group meeting scheduled for 19 July.
Six members, namely Australia, Canada, Paraguay, Thailand, Ukraine and the United States, have jointly submitted a new counter-notification (G/AG/W/234) under Article 18.7 of the Agreement on Agriculture. The counter-notification raises concerns regarding the methodologies employed by India in its notifications concerning domestic market price support measures for wheat and rice. These members argue that the information obtained through the committee review process and consultations with India in November 2022 was incomplete. They specifically alleged that India provided market price support for rice and wheat vastly in excess of what it had reported to the WTO. They said the purpose of the counter-notification is to foster a better understanding, taking into account India's significant influence in global grains markets.
However, India maintained that its notifications are in full compliance with WTO rules and did not intend to modify the methodologies suggested by this group of members. India also reminded the co-sponsors about their pending domestic support notifications and urged them to focus their efforts to submit those missing notifications rather than preparing counter-notifications for others.
This is the second counter-notification on the same topic, with the first one being submitted by the United States in May 2018 (G/AG/W/174).
Review of agricultural policies
Members discussed 28 new issues concerning each other's farm policies, which encompassed market access, domestic support and export competition. These issues covered various topics, including the introduction of new farm support programmes by Australia, Brazil, China, the European Union, Paraguay, Switzerland, Thailand, Uruguay and the United States. Import and export limiting measures implemented by Congo, Nicaragua and Türkiye were also addressed. All questions are compiled here.
Among the 12 recurring issues raised in previous committee meetings, members continued their discussions on various topics. These included the EU's deforestation regulation, Argentina and India's export restrictions, China's policies on grains and cotton, the UK's banking and financial restrictions, and the US Inflation Reduction Act, among others.
Participants also took the opportunity to seek further information on individual notifications submitted by members concerning tariff quota administration, special agricultural safeguards, domestic support and export subsidy notifications as well as notifications in the context of the NFIDC Decision.
All questions submitted for the meeting are available in G/AG/W/237. All questions and replies received are available in the WTO's Agriculture Information Management System (AG IMS).
Members engaged in discussions on the chair's draft proposal (in RD/AG/109/Rev.1) aimed at aligning the current export subsidy notification requirement with the obligations and associated timelines outlined in the Nairobi Decision on Export Competition. While some members stressed the importance of avoiding information loss while simplifying the notification process, others cautioned against introducing new rules and burdens. Many members asked for additional time for further deliberations before reaching a decision. During the meeting, three written submissions on enhancing transparency and improving and streamlining notification practices were also discussed: submissions by China (G/AG/W/232), Costa Rica (G/AG/W/230) and the European Union (RD/AG/110).
Members continued their discussions on improving the “Functioning of the Committee on Agriculture” based on document RD/AG/111, which compiles members' suggestions. Members welcomed the annotated agenda (RD/AG/112) circulated by the WTO Secretariat for the first time for this June committee meeting on a trial basis and approved its continuation for future meetings.
Taking note of the recent surge in submissions concerning overdue notifications, the chair highlighted the substantial backlog of notifications and unanswered questions, as outlined in G/AG/GEN/86/Rev.49 and G/AG/W/204/Rev.10. The chair urged members to redouble their efforts and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the review process by promptly addressing each other's inquiries.
Brunei-Darussalam, Paraguay and Tanzania announced their non-recourse to agricultural export subsidies, which are counted as “nil” notifications. The chair encouraged members to make full use of the newly established oral announcement mechanism for submitting “nil” export subsidy notifications to the committee. This mechanism aims to assist members with capacity constraints and provides an additional avenue for addressing outstanding export subsidy notifications.
Participants were presented with the Secretariat's report titled “A Year of Turbulence on Food and Feed Markets,” which highlighted the monitoring of trade facilitation and restrictive policies since the onset of the war in Ukraine. A call was made to refrain from pursuing policies that could destabilize international food markets, particularly considering the current global food security challenges. Some members also suggested organizing further discussions in the committee on the periodic trade monitoring reports.
The Inter-America Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture presented its work plan for the joint project with the WTO, which is set to commence in July. The objective of this project is to develop a manual of good practices that will enhance the engagement of countries in this committee.
The WTO Secretariat shared its plan to conduct its annual advanced workshop on agricultural notifications in two phases. A total of 25 officials from developing and least-developed country members will be selected to participate in this workshop.
Members expressed their appreciation for the update provided by the Secretariat on the enhanced reporting and analytical function of the AGIMS system concerning domestic support. They suggested organizing training sessions to familiarize members with the new tool and enable them to effectively utilize it for future work. The AGIMS domestic support reporting function will be released in stages, with some reports to be made accessible to members and the public by the end of this week.
The next meeting of the Committee on Agriculture is slated for 27-28 September 2023.
More information on the work of the committee is available here.