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USTR on WTO Agriculture Negotiations

(U.S., others press for ambitious reform in a new round) (580)

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has prepared a short fact sheet on World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations. USTR released it October 19, ahead of the WTO trade ministers' meeting scheduled November 9-13 in Doha, Qatar, where ministers seek to launch new multilateral trade negotiations.

Following is the fact sheet:

(begin fact sheet)

WTO Agriculture Negotiations

WTO agriculture negotiations, which were mandated under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture to begin in 2000, are off to a good start. In the first year of discussions 44 proposals were tabled, sponsored by 125 of the WTO's 142 members. The proposals reflect the range of views of WTO members, from those with ambitious reform objectives to members with serious reservations about tighter disciplines on agricultural trade policies. All the major agriculture producing and trading members have submitted proposals and been active in the negotiations. This includes many developing countries, who have urged developed countries to reduce tariffs and subsidies while proposing rules to provide special and differential treatment for developing countries.

The first phase of negotiations, the submission of initial proposals, was completed this spring. On 27 March WTO members agreed to a work plan for the second phase of negotiations, which is aimed at intensifying discussions and deepening the technical work. Meetings held through the summer and fall allowed for more in-depth discussions on the topics raised in initial negotiating proposals. Topics covered to date that generated the most discussion include export subsidies, tariffs, state trading enterprises, trade-distorting domestic support and food safety. The final meeting in 2001 is scheduled for the first week of December.

The focus for the Ministerial Conference is to launch a broad Round that provides political impetus for moving forward on multilateral reform in agriculture. The agriculture mandate will provide more specific direction as negotiations intensify. Countries with a reformist agenda, including the Cairns Group, the United States, and many developing countries, have proposed the mandate clearly establish the direction of reform and identify ambitious negotiating objectives for market access, export competition, and domestic support. Countries averse to reform, particularly wealthy countries with relatively uncompetitive agricultural sectors, have sought to blunt the reform thrust of the mandate and broaden the focus of the negotiations by raising the profile of "non-trade concerns", e.g. environmental protection, rural development, and food security.

The United States has identified ambitious objectives for the negotiations in a comprehensive framework proposal submitted to the WTO in June 2000. These include:

-- a. substantial reductions in tariffs and increases in tariff-rate quotas, in all markets and for all products; -- b. elimination of all export subsidies; -- c. substantial reduction in trade-distorting domestic support; -- d. simplification of rules applying to domestic support, and establishment of a ceiling on trade-distorting support that applies equally to all countries; -- e. disciplines on the use of export restrictions and embargoes on agricultural products; and -- f. disciplines on state trading enterprises.

If a Round is successfully launched at the Ministerial Conference, all members, including the United States, will be elaborating on their initial proposals. This will require proposing specific "modalities", such as tariff and subsidy reduction formulas, as members work to reach consensus on substantive reform obligations.

19 October 2001

(end fact sheet)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: NNNN

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