Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements
AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS: BACKGROUNDER

Update Phase 2: additional issues

Additional issues

See also Phase 1 (Market access: tariffs and tariff quotas).

Food aid and the Green Box. Two papers had only just been circulated at the final Phase 2 meeting, and several were circulated afterwards, so most comments were brief and preliminary.

There was some sympathy for proposals to avoid the use of food aid as a way of offloading surpluses and expanding market share, although one country questioned the proposal to limit food aid to grants only on the grounds that this might prevent speedy distribution.

More countries had reservations about proposals on the Green Box (unrestricted domestic supports that have — at most — a minimal effect on trade or production: > see phase 1). Proposed were: greater flexibility for developing countries under this box, i.e. developing countries would be allowed to use certain measures without restriction by putting them in the Green Box; and some definition for determining whether measures really are minimally trade distorting.

These were based partly on the argument that the large amounts that are being spent under the Green Box and through switching from the Amber and Blue Boxes do have an effect on wealth and income that can significantly distort production and trade.

Some members argued that that Green Box subsidies are defined as those that cause no or minimal distortion. Therefore, they said, any shift in support to the Green Box should be welcomed. Some also opposed putting some of the measures in the Green Box.

The paper on tariff quota expansion raised questions about the best formulation of expansion (e.g. how it might be based on domestic consumption). The debate hinged on whether this could be handled simultaneously with discussion on tariff quota administration methods or whether the discussion must be in two steps: dealing with legal uncertainty on administration first, before considering the creation of new quotas or expanding existing quotas.

Papers or “non-papers” from: some Caricom countries (Food aid, Green Box subsidies, Non-trade concerns, special agricultural safeguard mechanism for developing countries and small developing economies, trade preferences), Mauritius (Green Box), and New Zealand (Tariff quota expansion)

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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.