Chairperson’s texts 2007
Updated: 4 January 2008
On 17 July 2007, Ambassador Crawford
Falconer, chairperson of the agriculture negotiations, circulated his
45-page revised draft “modalities” containing formulas for cutting
tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies, and related provisions. The
draft is based on WTO member governments’ latest positions in the
negotiations and is an assessment of what might be agreed. Its release
kicks off another intensive series of meetings for members to try to
reach agreement, and probably to amend the draft. (See explanation
This followed two “challenges” papers circulated in April and May, containing his ideas on where members’ positions might converge.
(The 17 July release was coordinated with Ambassador Don Stephenson, chairperson of the non-agricultural market access negotiations, who also circulated his revised draft “modalities” paper).
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> Revised draft modalities,
Corrected version, 1 August. Browse: html. > Download, 47 pages: Word 541KB; pdf 228KB
(Earlier version, 17 July 2007. Download, 45 pages: Word 476KB; pdf 169KB)
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text > help
> Second set of ‘challenges’ circulated for farm talks,
25 May 2007. Browse: html. > Download, 15 pages: Word 100KB; pdf 78KB
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text (29 May 2007) > help
> Agriculture chair circulates ‘challenges’ paper,
30 April 2007. Browse: html. > Download, 28 pages: Word 191KB; pdf 124KB
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text (7 May 2007) > help
What is this paper? This is NOT a “proposal” from the New Zealand ambassador (or from “the WTO”) in the sense that we would normally understand the word “proposal”. In other words, it is NOT his opinion of what would be “good” for world agricultural trade.
Rather, it is an assessment drawn from WTO member governments’ positions. It is the negotiations’ chairperson’s judgement of what they might be able to agree — based on what they have proposed and debated in over seven years of negotiations and their responses to his previous papers. He has stressed that this is not final. It puts the possible areas of agreement on paper so that members can react and further revise the draft. So this paper kicks off another intensive series of meetings and comment.
What are “modalities”? “Modalities” are ways or methods of doing something. Here, the ultimate objective is for member governments to cut tariffs and subsidies and to make these binding commitments in the WTO. The “modalities” will tell them how to do it, but first the “modalities” have to be agreed.
With 150 members and thousands of products, the simplest way to do this is to agree on formulas for making the cuts. These formulas are at the heart of the “modalities”. Once they have been agreed, governments can apply the formulas to their tariffs and subsidies to set new ceiling commitments.
However in order to agree to the formulas, members want a number of other concerns to be part of the deal. These include flexibility to allow some deviation from the formulas, tighter disciplines to ensure loopholes are plugged and trade-distorting subsidies are not camouflaged in permitted policies, and different treatment for developing countries and some other groups of members.
The result is a document that is considerably more complicated than formulas alone. But the aim is still to strike a deal that enables governments to open their markets and reduce trade-distorting subsidies. These new commitments are to be listed in documents called “schedules” of commitments.