Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Other issues

The main reduction commitments are in market access, domestic support and export subsidies. But the Agriculture Agreement contains other provisions, including export restrictions, a “peace clause”, dispute settlement and further negotiations.

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Export restrictions 

The Agreement on Agriculture requires Members which consider to institute new export restrictions on foodstuffs to give due consideration to the effects of such restrictions on importing Members’ food security. Members, except developing country Members which are not net exporters of the product concerned, must notify the Committee on Agriculture before introducing new export restrictions on foodstuffs and consult with affected Members if so requested. This requirement — increased reliability of access to world market supply — is a corollary for the opening of markets which is required by the market access provisions of the Agreement and the related specific commitments undertaken by Members.


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Peace clause 

The Agreement in Agriculture contains a “due restraint” or “peace clause” which regulates the application of other WTO agreements to subsidies in respect of agricultural products (Article 13). The provisions provide that Green Box domestic support measures cannot be the subject of countervailing duty action or other subsidy action under the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, nor can they be subject to actions based on non-violation nullification or impairment of tariff concessions under the GATT. Other domestic support measures which are in conformity with the provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture may be the subject of countervailing duty actions, but due restraint is to be exercised by Members in initiating such investigations. Further, in so far as the support provided to individual products does not exceed that decided in the 1992 marketing year, these measures are exempt from other subsidy action or nullification or impairment action. Export subsidies conforming to the Agreement on Agriculture are, to the extent relevant, covered by corresponding provisions.

The peace clause remains in effect for a period of nine years.


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Resolving disputes 

In the case of disputes involving provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture, the general WTO dispute settlement procedures apply. Nevertheless, the Agreement also provides for certain mechanisms that can be used by Members to address their concerns without recourse to these procedures. In particular, the review process of the Committee on Agriculture provides a forum for discussion and consultation. This process is mainly based on the notifications and on a provision (Article 18.6) allowing any Member to raise at any time any matter relevant to the implementation of the commitments under the reform programme as set out in the Agreement. There is also a counter-notification provision. Furthermore, the Working Procedures of the Committee allow Members to request the Chairperson to mediate in concerns that may arise between them. The use of instruments under the auspices of the Committee on Agriculture does not, however, prevent any Member from seeking formal dispute settlement at any time.


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Continuation clause 

The commitments taken under the Agreement on Agriculture and within the Members’ schedules are part of an ongoing process. Already at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, Members agreed to hold further negotiations on agriculture commencing one year before the end of the six-year implementation period (Article 20). These negotiations will examine what further commitments are necessary to achieve the long-term objective of substantial progressive reductions in support and protection resulting in fundamental reform. The negotiations are also to take into account factors such as the experience gained during the implementation period, the effects of Uruguay Round reduction commitments on world trade in agriculture, non-trade concerns, special and differential treatment to developing country Members and the objective to establish a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system.

> See also: full details of the negotiations, including proposals and statements, regularly updated

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