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March 2001: chairperson’s statement on the ‘first phase’

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Committee on Agriculture
Special Session 26–28 March 2001

Seventh Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture

Statement by the Chairman on the first phase of the Negotiations on Agriculture, Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales

This meeting is the seventh Special Session and marks the end of the first phase of the negotiations. As was agreed in March last year at the first Special Session, we must now take stock of the progress made so far in the negotiations.

The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and the related commitments in each Member's WTO Schedule of commitments were the first steps in a longer term reform process in agricultural trade as recognized in the Preamble and Article 20 of the Agreement. Article 20 required that the negotiations on continuing the reform programme be initiated one year before the end of the implementation period.

For the past twelve months the Committee on Agriculture meeting in Special Session has been negotiating the continuation of the reform process as required by Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture and in accordance with the decision of the General Council in February 2000.

In my view a great deal of progress has been achieved under the work programme established in March last year for the first phase of the negotiations. It is important of course that this momentum is sustained into and throughout the next phase of the negotiations.

In all, 44 negotiating proposals and 3 technical papers have been submitted by a total of 125 WTO Member countries covering the different issues related to agriculture trade that are of major and fundamental interest and importance to the participating countries concerned. In addition the Secretariat has made available 27 background papers at the request of Members in order to facilitate the negotiating process.

The examination of these proposals and submissions 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 of the Article 20 negotiations.

In a sense the first phase of the negotiations, although it has involved a great deal of work in capitals and in the Special Session meetings, has been relatively straight forward. Its importance lies in the fact that the basic positions of participants are now on the table. The next phase will represent the beginning of a more challenging process.

At your request I have conducted extensive informal consultations on how the second phase of the Article 20 negotiations should be structured and organized. I would like to thank all delegations for their contributions and assistance in this regard. I am encouraged to believe that the draft work programme under consideration constitutes a finely balanced basis for the next phase of the negotiations.

I would now like to open the floor for Members to make their respective statements in the context of the stock-taking exercise.