The Agriculture Negotiations at the World Trade Organization: An update after the Nairobi Ministerial Conference
The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) was the outcome of the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations (1986-1994). The objective of the AoA was to remove agricultural trade distortions in order to ensure that import and export markets remained predictable for traders. The Uruguay round of trade negotiations resulted in setting numerical targets for reducing trade distortions in agriculture.
The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) owes its existence to the fourth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Doha, Qatar in November 2001, which resulted in the Doha declaration. The Doha declaration built on the work that was already going on in agriculture negotiations; it reconfirmed the long-term objective of establishing a fair and market oriented trading system through a programme of fundamental reforms. However, Members were unable to meet the deadline of March 2003 on modalities on agriculture that would enable them produce their comprehensive draft commitments. On 1 August 2004, the 147 members of the WTO approved a package that had frameworks that could be used to complete the modalities on agriculture. From September 2004 till now, members are in the modalities phase.
The MC10 was the first WTO ministerial meeting to be held in Africa. Leading up to the ministerial, little progress had been made in terms of possible areas of agreement. The G33 had made proposals to have special safeguards mechanisms, that would allow developing countries to temporarily raise tariffs to curb import surges, be included under issues to be discussed in Nairobi. Australia had also made a proposal on how export competition could be commercially beneficial. There had been no changes on discussions on public stock holding, cotton, domestic support and market access. The Nairobi Package made some remarkable progress in agriculture even though it did not result in the conclusion of the Doha round of negotiations.
Although progress has been made towards achieving the Uruguay Round Targets, this is not sufficient to complete the Doha Round. There is progress in achieving reduction in export subsidies, much more than even set out under the Uruguay Round Targets. However, under the market access pillar and domestic support, very little progress has been made. There is a lot of work that needs to be put in place in order to carry forward the commitments under the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.
* This paper updates an earlier version prepared for the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi by Miriam W. O. Omolo. The author is affiliated to the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya.
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