WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

27 March 2001

Work programme agreed for talks' 'phase 2'

Agriculture negotiations
26-27 March 2001

WTO agriculture negotiators wrapped up the first phase of the negotiations on 27 March 2001, and swiftly agreed on a work programme for the second phase. An unprecedented number of governments participated actively in the first phase.

Altogether 125 WTO members (counting the EU as 16) out of a total of 140 submitted 44 negotiating proposals and three technical submissions in the first phase, which began in March 2000 (see press release 172).

The negotiators will now look in greater depth at the proposals, dividing their work according to subject, so that ultimately, in a later phase, they can enter into the bargaining that will be necessary to reach a consensus agreement.

“The fact that almost all WTO members, big and small, have submitted such a wide variety of well thought out proposals reflects a widespread commitment to continue to reform agricultural trade,” said WTO Director-General Mike Moore. “More than that, it is a powerful vote of confidence in the multilateral system.

“The next phases are not going to be easy, but there is clearly a healthy determination to work together on this,” he said. "The interests of everyone, from subsistence cultivators and herdsmen in developing countries, to modern farmers in the developed nations, are being pushed in these talks.

“A year ago when the agriculture negotiations were launched I said: ‘This is the WTO working at its best. The hard bargaining still lies ahead, and I’m sure that will be much more difficult. But the goodwill shown at this meeting is a good omen for the future,’ What I said then is even truer today” he added.

The new negotiations on agriculture started in 2000 under the deal struck at the end of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks. It is written into Article 20 of the WTO Agriculture Agreement, part of the Uruguay Round package.

Kicking off the stock-taking session of the negotiations on 26 March, the chairperson, ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru, said: “The examination of (the) proposals and submissions (of the first phase) has been both detailed and intensive. This I am sure has contributed to heightening our appreciation of the wide range of interests involved, as well as the complexity of many of the issues which will have to be addressed in more detail in the next phase.”

Even so, the first phase was “relatively straightforward”, he went on. “The next phase will represent the beginning of a more challenging process.”

For more information, see the WTO website www.wto.org
and in particular the section on the agriculture negotiations: