Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec12/06)
19 December 2012
Third World Network
Agriculture: Chair reports on consultations on G-20 papers
Published in SUNS #7485 dated 22 November 2012
Geneva, 21 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal meeting of the Special
Session of the Committee on Agriculture last week heard a report from
its Chair on recent consultations that he had held on two "non-papers"
from the G-20, as well as views from members on these two papers.
One G-20 non-paper, in the form of a textual proposal and an accompanying
annex, is an "understanding" on tariff rate quota (TRQ)
administration provisions on agricultural products.
The second non-paper is a G-20 request for studies (by the Secretariat)
on TRQ administration and on export competition.
With regards to the second non-paper (dated 28 September), it is learned
that on TRQ administration, the G-20 has proposed that updated information
be obtained regarding the application of different types of TRQ administration
methods by members and the associated tariff quota fill rates.
It is also learned that the G-20 has proposed that the Secretariat's
paper on TRQ administration should include information on: (i) tariff
quotas and imports under tariff quotas for the period 2002-2011; (ii)
tariff quotas created or modified by members due to Article XXVIII
or Article XXIV: 6 negotiations of GATT 1994; (iii) tariff quota administration
methods applied and/or modified by members and their associated tariff
quota fill rates for the period 2002-2011; and (iv) overview of the
compliance of members with Table MA: 1 notifications.
On export competition, it is learned that the G-20 has proposed that
there should be updated information on the use of export subsidies
by members regarding the four areas covered by the modalities: (i)
export subsidies; (ii) export credits, export credit guarantees and
insurance programmes; (iii) state trading enterprises; and (iv) food
Both non-papers were introduced at the last informal meeting on 28
In his opening remarks at the informal meeting on 16 November, the
Chair, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand, said that he had been
consulting with members on the two G-20 proposals since early October.
On the non-paper proposing that the Secretariat circulates updated
information on both TRQ administration as well as export competition,
the Chair recalled that at the 28 September informal meeting, most
members that took the floor indicated "an openness to see this
work being taken forward" although there were a number of questions
from some delegations, which the Chair said he has been seeking to
resolve in the course of his consultations.
He noted that there was also a specific additional suggestion at that
informal meeting for this information to be complemented by the Secretariat
with an update on notifications on export restrictions, on a similar
basis to the material requested on TRQ administration and export competition.
Reporting on his discussions with a range of members on the G-20 non-paper
on TRQ administration, Ambassador Adank said that he has been encouraged
by the willingness of members to engage in this area, consistent with
the guidance from the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC8, held
in Geneva last December).
"I think this does reflect the fact that members across the spectrum
recognise that an agricultural component to our Doha-related work
remains crucial to the success of the broader effort, even if the
consultations have revealed a range of sensitivities about the extent
to which a selective approach may be able to achieve the overall balance
necessary in agriculture," he added.
"It's fair to say I have not heard ‘No' from any member on the
idea that TRQ administration might form part of a broader range of
Doha-related decisions taken forward in the next year, even if it's
not possible to say there has been an unreserved ‘Yes' to the specific
proposal of the G-20," said the Chair.
While a number of members are supportive of taking the proposal forward
for endorsement on the basis that it effectively replicates the supposedly
stabilised text of the Rev. 4 (the draft modalities) document in paragraphs
115-125, discussions with some other members have indicated "reluctance
to move quickly" in the same direction, the Chair reported, noting
that this reluctance stems from two main concerns.
First, the Chair explained, is that some members are focusing on how
this proposal is linked to other issues proposed for early decisions,
both within and outside the discussions on agriculture, and secondly,
it is evident that some members remain sensitive about certain aspects
of the proposal which they do not agree or regard as stabilised in
the same way as the proponents of the proposal.
The Chair said that he has not detected "any significant sensitivities"
with regard to the first part of the proposal with focuses on transparency
provisions of TRQ administration.
However, he added, some aspects of the "underfill mechanism"
outlined in the annex (to the proposal) continue to raise questions
for some members, and in particular, there are different views regarding
the special and differential treatment (S&D) provision in paragraph
4 of the annex.
Some members noted the importance of maintaining this aspect of the
paper as formulated, while others considered this aspect would need
to be accorded further consideration, said the Chair.
According to trade officials, members of the G-20 and the Cairns Group
of agricultural exporters (coordinated by Australia) supported the
proposal on TRQ administration. They however said the proposed disciplines
would not be as ambitious as they wanted.
Some members (such as Japan) cautioned that although the provision
is "stable" (close to being agreed) within the broader agriculture
draft modalities text, on its own, it would not reflect the balance
on market access that was negotiated.
Speaking following comments from delegations on the two G-20 non-papers,
the Chair said that the comments do reflect a strong willingness by
delegations to engage "in a much deeper way perhaps than appears
to have been possible in the last year", with various members
coming forward with more specific ideas.
On the G-20 paper on TRQ administration, Ambassador Adank said "it's
clear I think from the discussions that we've heard that everyone
is prepared to do further work in this area, even though I think it
is also clear that in some cases we see that some delegations are
not yet in a position to provide a final view on certain aspects of
According to trade officials, the Secretariat will compile factual
information on tariff quotas, export competition and export prohibitions
Ambassador Adank said that some of these could be completed by the
end of the year and the rest early in 2013.
According to trade officials, the Chair urged members to avoid "negotiating
too much" in advance about the content of the papers. Rather,
they should wait to see what the papers contain and base their comments
and questions on them, he added.
Meanwhile, the G-33 (coordinated by Indonesia) has tabled a proposal
on food security, which according to trade officials, seeks early
approval for new provisions allowing government stockholding and purchases
from poor farmers at supported prices to be excluded from calculations
of the type of domestic support whose use has to be limited because
it distorts markets.
The G-33 said this is necessary in order to provide food security
for poor farmers, underscoring that the provisions are also "stable"
in the 2008 draft modalities text - there are no square brackets around
it, indicating the text is more or less acceptable.
According to trade officials, while members speaking in the informal
meeting accepted the importance of food security, particularly in
the present climate of high prices, there were differing reactions
to the proposal.
G-33 members and some G-20 members supported the proposal, while other
members said the issue is complex and needs to be examined closely.
According to trade officials, some members (including the European
Union) said that this is particularly the case when the proposed amendment
is isolated from the rest of the package, that it would imply no disciplines
on stockholding. The proponents should explain how the provision should
be used, they added.
Other members (including the US) said that the provisions still have
not been discussed multilaterally in enough depth.
Some (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) said reforming agricultural
trade by concluding the Doha Round would give food security the biggest
boost, trade officials added.
According to trade officials, some members said that they are considering
other candidate topics for early agreement. +