Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

March 2002 to 31 March 2003: ‘modalities’

This 12-month programme deals with one of the most critical stages of the agriculture negotiations. It will set “modalities” or targets (including numerical targets) for achieving the objectives set out in the Doha Ministerial Declaration: “substantial improvements in market access; reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support”. It will also include some rule-making. This stage will therefore determine the shape of the negotiations’ final outcome.

The “modalities” will be used for members to produce their offers or “comprehensive draft commitments”. The Doha Ministerial Declaration says this has to be done by the Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico, 10–14 September 2003, a few months after the 31 March 2003 deadline for modalities. The negotiations themselves are to end by 1 January 2005 as part of the Doha agenda’s single undertaking.

The programme begins with technical work on detailed possibilities for each of the three main areas of the Agriculture Agreement: export subsidies/competition; market access; and domestic support. Special treatment for developing countries will be an integral part of all of these, and non-trade concerns will be taken into account.

Towards the end of 2002, these ideas will be brought together in an overview document. Intensified negotiations after the New Year would then produce the “modalities” document by 31 March 2003.

The programme was agreed after a series of consultations that produced the necessary consensus backing.

The ‘modalities’ programme’s timetable > “Nutshell” page



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