31 March 2003 deadline was set in November by trade
ministers at the WTO’s Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha.
Ministers also agreed on a 1 January 2005 deadline for
reaching a final agreement on agriculture and all other areas of
negotiations that comprise the Doha Development Agenda.
in 2000 as a separate negotation, the agriculture talks are now part
of the Doha Development Agenda, with an enhanced mandate and clear
latest 12-month programme deals with one of the most critical stages
of the agriculture negotiations. It will set “modalities” or
targets (including numerical targets) for achieving the objectives set
out in the Doha Ministerial Declaration: “substantial improvements
in market access; reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms
of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting
domestic support”. It will also include some rule-making. This stage
will therefore determine the shape of the negotiations’ final
“modalities” will be used for members to produce their first
offers or “comprehensive draft commitments”. The Doha Ministerial
Declaration says this has to be done by the Fifth Ministerial
Conference in Mexico, a few months after 31 March 2003. The
negotiations themselves are to end by 1 January 2005 as part
of the Doha agenda’s single undertaking.
programme begins with technical work on detailed possibilities for
each of the three “pillars” of the agriculture agreement: export
subsidies/competition; market access; and domestic support. Special
treatment for developing countries will be an integral part of all of
these, and non-trade concerns will be taken into account.
the end of 2002, these ideas will be brought together in an overview
document. Intensified negotiations after the New Year would then
produce the “modalities” document by 31 March 2003.
Stuart Harbinson of Hong Kong, China, presided over the consultations
that produced the consensus backing for the programme. Four informal
consultations open to all WTO members were held to report on smaller
group discussions and to hear comments before a consensus compromise
was struck. One of the constraints was the need to avoid a schedule
that clashed with other meetings — including negotiations in other
subjects — in a busy year.
Harbinson, who chaired the WTO General Council during the preparations
for the Doha Ministerial Conference, was formally elected chairperson
at the beginning of the meeting, a position he will hold until the
Fifth Ministerial Conference in Mexico. He took over from Ambassador
Apiradi Tantraporn of Thailand.
“modalities” programme in detail:
meeting: export subsidies and restrictions (informal 17–19 June,
formal 20 June)
September meeting: market access (informal 2–3 September,
formal 4 September)
September meeting: domestic support (informal 23–25 September,
formal 27 September)
meeting: follow-up (informal 18–20 November, formal
that, for circulation by 18 December: overview paper
drafted by Chairperson Harbinson, based on discussions so far.
meeting: comprehensive review based on overview paper
(informal/formal 22–24 January)
first draft of modalities document
meeting: comments on first draft (informal/formal 24–28 February)
second draft of modalities document
meeting: consideration of final text (informal/formal 25–31 March)
- 31 March:
the first two phases an unprecedented 126 member governments
submitted 45 proposals and numerous other documents setting out
their initial negotiating positions in the negotiations. The talks
have now moved into the more difficult stage of attempting to narrow
the gaps and ultimately reach a compromise consensus.
WTO Agriculture Negotiations: the issues, and where we are now
> The Doha Implementation Decision, 2001
> The Doha negotiating mandate