Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov16/15)
25 November 2016
Third World Network
Agriculture: Positions unchanged on public stockholding, SSM, says
Published in SUNS #8361 dated 23 November 2016
Geneva, 22 Nov (Kanaga Raja) - The Chair of the agriculture negotiations
at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has reported that Members' basic
positions remain unchanged on the issues of public stockholding for
food security purposes and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for
The report by the Chair, Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis of New Zealand,
came at two separate dedicated discussions on 17 November on both
Earlier on 16 November, a meeting of the Special Session of the Agriculture
Committee was held at which several proposals were tabled on domestic
support and market access in agriculture (see separate story).
According to trade officials, during the dedicated discussion on public
stockholding on 17 November, the Chair reported that nothing new has
come up and the only thing that is relatively fresh is that developing
countries are now asking for the programme to be available to all
developing countries, and not only to those who are already using
the programme as outlined in the Bali decision.
He said that there is no disagreement among the members that there
is a mandate to finish the negotiations on a permanent solution for
these programmes by the end of 2017. However, members disagree on
the way forward, he added.
According to trade officials, Botswana, on behalf of the African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, underlined that public stockholding
for food security purposes is important for ACP countries, especially
in times of emergency.
Public stockholding programmes are necessary to ensure adequate food
supply, and finding a permanent solution must address legitimate food
security concerns of developing countries. They must cover all new
and existing programmes and we must move forward (on this issue),
Indonesia, on behalf of the G33, said in the context of the post-Nairobi
discussion, we have had two dedicated discussions already (on public
However, the G33 remains concerned that some members are still questioning
the public stockholding programmes and this tendency is counterproductive.
We must keep in mind the Nairobi mandate and we must continue the
discussions, it stressed.
The G33 strongly believes that a permanent solution must contain elements
of document JOB/AG/27, which says that such programmes should have
The G33 also said that the Agreement on Agriculture, as it stands
today, does not give policy space for public stockholding programmes.
It also believed that a solution must be available to all developing
India voiced agreement with the G33 statement. It also expressed disappointment
that some members are trying to link the issue of public stockholding
with the overall discussions on domestic support.
According to trade officials, other Members voiced caution over what
they said are the unintended consequences that such programmes could
have on international markets. They also highlighted the systemic
issue that support programmes of the sort could go against the direction
of agriculture reform to curb subsidies.
Members who raised these concerns include Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia,
Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Thailand, the European Union, Canada,
Australia and the United States.
The US said that while it remained committed, there is need to allow
such programmes without affecting other countries. It also said making
changes to the Agreement on Agriculture will lead to unintended consequences,
including affecting poor countries' food security. There is also need
to make sure that the stocks are not exported.
The EU said that it is aware of the need to find a permanent solution
by MC11 (eleventh ministerial conference to be held in Buenos Aires
December next year) and will fully engage to do so. It understands
the food security concerns. However, such food security schemes should
not disrupt markets.
According to the EU, this meeting makes it clear that proposals to
put everything in the Green Box will not find consensus.
We cannot look at the issue in isolation from the domestic support
context, it said, adding that if we look at it in isolation, then
we need to start from the interim solution. On the other hand, by
seeking more broader discussions on domestic support, we can seek
to avoid putting new trade-distorting measures in place, the EU said.
According to trade officials, Australia said that tougher safeguards
need to be in place to prevent trade effects. It maintained that China
is the world's largest producer of wheat and India the largest exporter
of rice, and that price support programmes in these large countries
would have an impact on the global market, in particular when stockpiled
food is leaked to the international market by private exporters or
by public bodies.
Pakistan shared its experience in addressing food security and rural
development through cash transfers to farmers, instead of purchasing
and stockpiling food.
According to trade officials, some members called upon countries that
currently have public stockholding programmes to share more information
and explore alternative ways to address food security concerns.
Meanwhile, at the dedicated discussion on the issue of SSM, the Chair
also said that there was nothing new to report. "There is no
consensus whether an SSM for developing countries would form part
of the Buenos Aires ministerial outcome," Ambassador Vitalis
He said that while there is no question on the Nairobi decision to
continue negotiations on the mechanism, the issue is when and how.
It is also clear that the division on the issue is not neatly between
developed and developing countries, he added.
According to trade officials, South Africa said that it is one of
the developing countries that has access to the SSG (special agricultural
safeguard). This is a matter of great interest to it and more can
be done to define the appropriate trigger levels of safeguards.
Botswana, on behalf of the ACP Group, said that the SSM is of critical
importance to protect resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
It is worth noting that most ACP countries have never been able to
invoke the SSG allowed under the WTO agreement, it said.
As a result, SSG by default fails to protect its farmers, said the
ACP, adding that in this connection, the SSM would be necessary.
Korea said that it has poor farmers whose livelihood and rural security
are worsening since the Uruguay Round. There is growing discontent
of globalisation and it is high time to listen and take these views
into account. It remains positive that the SSM would be established
According to trade officials, the G33 said that an SSM would respond
to the objectives of developing countries on food security and rural
development. It said that the current special agricultural safeguard
is too burdensome to apply. It asked for a more accessible mechanism
for developing countries.
Indonesia, on behalf of the G33, said that it supports the work programme
on the SSM through the dedicated discussions. It pointed out that
it has proposals on the table on this issue.
On the paper prepared by the Secretariat on the SSG, it said that
price-based trigger for SSG is more commonly used than volume-based
trigger and few developing countries use volume-based SSG.
The G33 is not in a position to accept an SSM less than SSG, it said.
There is need to design a truly accessible SSM.
Both China and India endorsed the G33 statement.
According to trade officials, the major agriculture exporting countries
on the other hand expressed concern over the potential negative effects
that an SSM would have on South-South trade.
Australia, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, and the
EU, amongst others, are of the view that an SSM can disrupt agriculture
trade, and hinder export opportunities for farm exporters in developing
and developed countries.
The US was of the view that any discussion on the SSM can only be
pursued in the context outlined in the Ministerial Conferences based
on broader market access negotiations.
The Chair took note of the persisting gaps in members' positions and
encouraged them to talk with each other and focus on identifying practical
solutions to address the remaining obstacles in the negotiations.