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March 2000: chairperson’s report to General Council

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31 March 2000

Committee on Agriculture
Special Session


Report by the Chairperson to the General Council

1. The Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, which was established by the General Council to conduct the negotiations for continuing the reform process under Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture (WT/GC/M/53, paragraph 39 refers), held its first meeting on 23-24 March 2000.

2. As agreed by the General Council on 23 March 2000, this first Special Session was chaired by the Chairman of the Council for Trade in Goods, Ambassador Roger Farrell, of New Zealand.

3. The Committee adopted the agenda as set out in WTO/AIR/1264.

4. With respect to the requirement that progress in the negotiations be reported directly to the General Council on a regular basis, it was agreed that on this occasion a short factual report would be made to the General Council on the responsibility of the Chairperson. This was on the understanding that the report, once circulated, could if necessary be amended to correct any errors of a factual nature.

5. A number of general statements were made in which participants outlined, inter alia, their respective positions regarding the negotiations for the continuation of the reform process. The statements made and the related discussion will be fully reflected as appropriate in the detailed summary report of the meeting to be prepared by the Secretariat. It was noted that participants are able to request that the full text of their statements be circulated as working documents. (Such statements are to be distributed in the document series: G/AG/NG/W/-.)

6. In the light of the suggestions made in this regard and the ensuing discussion, the following programme and arrangements for the first phase of the negotiations under Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture were agreed:

a. that work within the framework of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Article 20 would be based on technical papers and submissions to be contributed by interested participants, as well as on the basis of information and data to be prepared by the Secretariat at the request of the Committee;

b. that negotiating proposals would be submitted by participants by the end of December 2000, on the understanding that there would be flexibility for the submission of further or more detailed proposals thereafter, provided that such submissions are tabled sufficiently in advance of a stock-taking exercise, covering all proposals submitted, to be undertaken at a March 2001 meeting of the Special Session;

c.that appropriate provision would be made in the agendas of each of the Special Session meetings for the discussion of technical papers submitted and proposals made;

d. that the Special Session meetings would be held back-to-back with the regular meetings of the Committee on Agriculture in June, September and November 2000, with the possibility of an additional Special Session meeting being held in the interval prior to the March 2001 stock-taking meeting on the first phase of the negotiations. The timing of such a meeting, provisionally in the last week of January 2001, would be decided by the Chairperson in the light of consultations as appropriate.

7. Various suggestions were made by participants for background technical papers by the Secretariat. Taking account of these suggestions as appropriate, including experience to date in implementing commitments, the following background papers would be made available in advance of the next meeting of the Special Session in June:

8.    a. revised and updated background papers based on notifications on tariff quotas, domestic support, and export subsidies, as well as a table showing Members' usage of domestic support categories, export subsidies and export credits in a common currency;

b. an updated background paper on the agricultural trade performance of developing countries;

c. a background paper in the context of Article 20(b);

d. a background paper on implementation of the least-developed and net food-importing developing countries' Decision.

9. As requested by the participants concerned, the following statements made at the meeting are being circulated (in the series G/AG/NG/W/-): Argentina (W/1); Australia (W/2); EEC (W/3); Hungary (W/4); Japan (W/5); Norway (W/6); United States (W/7).

10. The next Special Session is to be held on 29-30 June 2000, following on from the regular meeting of the Committee on Agriculture which is to meet on Wednesday, 28 June.