The Uruguay Round reform programme for trade in agriculture comprises a vast range of rule-based commitments in the areas of market access, export subsidization and domestic support. Progress in the implementation of these commitments, which began on 1 January 1995, is subject to a multilateral review process in the WTO Committee on Agriculture.

    The Committee on Agriculture, comprised of all 128 Members of the WTO, conducts this review process on the basis of regular and ad hoc notifications which Members are required to submit, as well as on the basis of any specific or general matters relating to implementation that are raised by Members under Article 18:6 of the Agreement on Agriculture.

    Regular market access notifications are required with respect to the implementation of tariff quotas and the use of the special agricultural safeguard. Full picture notifications in respect of export subsidy commitments cover not only the level of subsidized exports and related budgetary outlays, but also total exports and food aid transactions of the specific products or groups of products concerned. Reviews of domestic support commitments cover not only reduction commitment levels but also non-trade-distortion criteria governing domestic support measures that are claimed as exempt from the reduction commitment.

    Keeping a collective eye on progress in the implementation of the specific reduction commitments being implemented over the six-year implementation period (ten years for developing country Members, with no reduction commitments required for least-developed developing country Members) is a key function of the Committee. An equally important function of the Committee relates to the implementation of the commitments under the new rules of the Agreement on Agriculture, such as the prohibitions on non-tariff border measures and on the use of export subsidies for agricultural products not specifically subject to reduction commitments. In these and other areas, including export restrictions, the Committee provides an effective forum for examination and consultation of any matters relating to the implementation of commitments. This review process and the related procedures for consultation do not preclude a Member's right to recourse in the formal WTO dispute settlement system.

    In its report for the Singapore Ministerial Conference the Committee's overall conclusions on implementation reveal that the review process has been conducted in an efficient and effective manner and that the highest priority should continue to be accorded to this key area of the Committee's work. In particular Members of the Committee consider that good progress has been made in implementing the commitments negotiated under the Uruguay Round reform programme, though some implementation issues remain to be resolved. These issues, as well as issues of a more general nature relating to the

manner in which commitments are being implemented, are outlined in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Committee's report.

    The Committee's report also notes that special and differential treatment in favour of developing country Members is an integral element of the Committee's review process, and that on request extensive technical assistance and advice on implementation has been provided by the Secretariat to developing country Members. (See also separate briefing note on the report of the Committee on Agriculture on the implementation of the NFIDC Decision.)

    Under the Agreement on Agriculture, a residual category of subsidies contingent upon export performance that are not as such subject to reduction commitments, which includes subsidized export credits and related facilities, are subject to strict anti-circumvention provisions. However, WTO Members have undertaken to work towards the development of specific internationally agreed disciplines in the area of subsidized export credits and related facilities. The Committee's report (paragraph 11), confirms that at the appropriate stage it will have to consider how an understanding in this area (on which action has been initiated in another forum) could be multilateralized within the framework of the Agreement on Agriculture and provision made for differential treatment in favour of least-developed and net food-importing developing countries.

    In the context of its on-going and further work the Committee's report for the Singapore Ministerial Conference also sets out the following agreement (paragraph 12 refers):

    "The negotiations to continue the reform process referred to in Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture, will be conducted in conformity with the timetable and all other provisions contained in that Article. Useful experience will be gained by the Committee on Agriculture in reviewing the implementation of existing commitments which will enable the Committee on Agriculture to further pursue in 1997 and thereafter:

    (a)    the assessment of the compliance with these commitments, taking into account the need for full and timely compliance; and

    (b)    a process of analysis and information exchange, in accordance with all relevant provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture.

    This will allow WTO Members to better understand the issues involved and to identify their interests in respect of them before undertaking the mandated negotiations laid down in Article 20See footnote 1."    

Footnote: 1Article 20 - Continuation of the Reform Process:

    "Recognizing that the long-term objective of substantial progressive reductions in support and protection resulting in fundamental reform is an ongoing process, Members agree that negotiations for continuing the process will be initiated one year before the end of the implementation period, taking into account:

    (a)    the experience to that date from implementing the reduction commitments;

    (b)    the effects of the reduction commitments on world trade in agriculture;

    (c)    non-trade concerns, special and differential treatment to developing country Members, and the objective to establish a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system, and the other objectives and concerns mentioned in the preamble to this Agreement; and

    (d)    what further commitments are necessary to achieve the above mentioned long-term objectives."