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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb13/07)
27 February 2013
Third World Network

Agriculture: A series of technical meetings envisaged
Published in SUNS #7525 dated 14 February 2013

Geneva, 13 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal meeting of the Special Session of the WTO Committee on Agriculture has been called by its Chair for this Friday, in what is viewed as the first of a series of technical meetings.

According to trade officials, the purpose of the session on 15 February is to set out the technical process whereby members examine information related to the G-33 proposal on public stockholding for food security.

Trade officials said that this session would kick off a series of technical meetings for members to present their information as well as pose questions to each other, without affecting their positions in the negotiations or their rights and obligations in the WTO.

So far, 20 members have replied to a questionnaire on their public stockholding for food security and domestic food aid programmes, with more being expected.

According to trade officials, the Chair, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand, said that the technical process would serve members' requests to use the information as background, so that the G-33 proposal can be understood better.

The G-33 proposal of last November is on some elements of the draft agriculture modalities text of December 2008 for early agreement to address food security issues.

The proposal, whose text is drawn from Annex B of the draft modalities, notes that at the Eighth Ministerial Conference (MC8, held in Geneva in December 2011), Ministers expressed their readiness, "to advance negotiations, where progress can be achieved, including focusing on the elements of the Doha Declaration that allow Members to reach provisional or definitive agreements based on consensus earlier than the full conclusion of the single undertaking".

The G-33 said that with a view to advance negotiations so as to achieve at least some outcomes in agriculture, which lies at the heart of the Doha Development Agenda, it is proposed to focus on one of the elements of the Doha Ministerial Declaration (DMD) which is of importance to developing countries, viz. food security.

The proposal noted that significant progress has already been achieved in the Doha Round negotiations which recognise the serious concerns of food security in developing countries.

"This has assumed the character of a global concern in the past few years with a need for urgent action. Accordingly, it is proposed that some of the elements in the Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture Text (TN/AG/W/4/Rev. 4) relating to food security are taken up for a decision in accordance with paragraph 47 of the DMD."

Accordingly, without prejudice to the overall conclusion of the Doha Round negotiations based on the single undertaking and noting that there are other elements in the Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture Text which can also partially address food security, the G-33 said it has proposed that a decision be taken to include the following elements of TN/AG/W/4/Rev. 4 as part of the Ministerial Declaration at the Ninth Ministerial Conference (in Bali this December).

It has proposed amending Annex 2 of the Agreement on Agriculture (which deals with domestic support and exemption from the reduction commitments).

Firstly, the G-33 has proposed adding a new sub-paragraph (h) to the existing paragraph 2 of Annex 2 (on general services under government service programmes):

"(h) policies and services related to farmer settlement, land reform programmes, rural development and rural livelihood security in developing country Members, such as provision of infrastructural services, land rehabilitation, soil conservation and resource management, drought management and flood control, rural employment programmes, nutritional food security, issuance of property titles and settlement programmes, to promote rural development and poverty alleviation."

Secondly, the G-33 has proposed modifying the existing footnote 5 of Annex 2 as follows:

"For the purposes of paragraph 3 of this Annex [on public stockholding for food security purposes], governmental stockholding programmes for food security purposes in developing countries whose operation is transparent and conducted in accordance with officially published objective criteria or guidelines shall be considered to be in conformity with the provisions of this paragraph, including programmes under which stocks of foodstuffs for food security purposes are acquired and released at administered prices, provided that the difference between the acquisition price and the external reference price is accounted for in the AMS. However, acquisition of stocks of foodstuffs by developing country Members with the objective of supporting low-income or resource-poor producers shall not be required to be accounted for in the AMS."

Thirdly, the G-33 has proposed modifying the existing footnote 5&6 of Annex 2 as follows:

"For the purposes of paragraphs 3 and 4 of this Annex [paragraph 4 is on domestic food aid], the acquisition of foodstuffs at subsidised prices when procured generally from low-income or resource-poor producers in developing countries with the objective of fighting hunger and rural poverty, as well as the provision of foodstuffs at subsidised prices with the objective of meeting food requirements of urban and rural poor in developing countries on a regular basis at reasonable prices shall be considered to be in conformity with the provisions of this paragraph. This is understood to mean, inter alia, that where such programmes referred to in this footnote and paragraph 4 above, including those in relation to lowering prices to more reasonable levels, involve also the arrangements referred to in footnote 5 to paragraph 3, there is no requirement for the difference between the acquisition price and the external reference price to be accounted for in the AMS."

 


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