Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Update Phase 2: Rural development

Rural development

See also Phase 1 (developing countries and non-trade concerns). Discussion on this topic has been one of the lengthiest in Phase 2. All papers and comments say this is important, particularly in developing countries. But is it also important for developed countries? Broadly, participants have one of three answers: yes, even if details are different; yes, specially for transition economies; no, or yes but there is a significant difference.

Several developing countries advocate various special provisions for dealing with their problems of food security, rural poverty, etc. These include additional transition periods, and a “development box” of measures that would be added to the green box. One proposal is for the development box to incorporate a “positive list” approach, i.e. each member would list the agricultural products it is ready to discipline under the Agriculture Agreement.

Several developed and developing countries emphasize the need for market orientation and the removal of distortions, even if flexibility is allowed to deal with rural poverty. Some warn that each country’s measures should not hurt others — they should be targeted, decoupled and transparent, and should move away from border and production measures.

Others argue that some price/production intervention is necessary to deal with rural development problems even in developed countries.

Papers or “non-papers” from: Cyprus, nine developing countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe), Norway, and Japan.

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The second phase consists of detailed discussions on the many issues raised in the first phase, organized topic by topic. The meetings are largely “informal”, meaning that there is no official record except for chairperson’s summaries presented at the formal meetings. Papers presented so far have not been official WTO documents. Despite the increased complexity, developing countries continue to participate actively.