public stockholding priority issues, say South
Published in SUNS # 8198 dated 10 March 2016
Geneva, 9 Mar (Kanaga Raja) - A number of developing countries, at
an informal meeting of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee
on Tuesday (8 March), stressed that the Special Safeguard Mechanism
(SSM) and public stockholding for food security purposes are stand-alone
issues and a priority for them in the work going forward post-Nairobi.
In their various interventions at the informal meeting, the developing
countries underlined that a permanent solution to the public stockholding
issue must be found by the next WTO ministerial conference (MC11)
scheduled to be held in 2017.
According to trade officials, the G-33 stressed on the need for work
to start on the SSM for developing countries.
Expressing concern that members have not yet engaged in finding a
permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security,
the G-33 said that it is high time that members deliver on it by MC11.
According to trade officials, the G-33's view was also supported by
the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) group of states.
In its intervention, India made clear that success at MC11 is contingent
on finding a permanent solution for public stockholding for food security.
Some developing countries also underscored that the 2008 Rev.4 draft
agriculture modalities text should be the basis for the negotiations.
The interventions of various members at this first informal meeting
of the Committee since MC10 last December was preceded by a report
by the Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis of
New Zealand, of the over 70 bilateral consultations that he held with
members since mid-January this year.
CHAIR'S REPORT ON HIS CONSULTATIONS
On substance, the Chair said that he had asked all of those with whom
he had met, including Group coordinators, what issues should in their
view form the basis of the continuing negotiations.
According to the Chair, there were six areas identified through his
First, it is clear that the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and
public stockholding (PSH) remain high priorities for some Members,
said the Chair, noting however that it is also equally clear that
other Members' positions on these two issues have not changed since
Ministers met in Nairobi.
With regard to the SSM in particular, the guidance provided by Ministers
is well understood.
The Chair said some Members reminded him that "developing country
Members will have the right to have recourse" to this mechanism
"as envisaged under paragraph 7 of the Hong Kong Ministerial
These Members also drew his attention to the fact that negotiations
on this will occur through "dedicated sessions" of the Special
Other Members have also reminded the Chair that these negotiations
will need to occur "in the context of addressing outstanding
"These are all phrases contained in the Ministerial Decision
on SSM and they will of course shape the way we look collectively
to structure the negotiations," said the Chair.
With regard to public stockholding, some Members believe that an outcome
can be delivered before MC11. Other Members do not necessarily share
For his part, the Chair recalled for the record that Ministers confirmed
that the negotiations on the PSH "shall be held in the CoASS
in dedicated sessions"; in an "accelerated time frame";
and on a separate track "distinct from the agriculture negotiations
under the Doha Development Agenda (DDA)".
"On both issues - the SSM and the PSH - and based on my consultations
to date, there remains a lack of clarity from Members about what an
eventual outcome might look like. This is clearly something you will
need to work together on over the coming months," said Ambassador
The Chair strongly recommended that all Members read very carefully
the texts of all of the Nairobi Decisions that relate to agriculture.
The words used in those texts were deliberately chosen by Ministers
to reflect their perspectives and, these will collectively shape and
inform the way forward.
Second, he said, negotiations on domestic support have emerged as
the clear priority for the overwhelming bulk of those he had consulted
"In fact, domestic support has been identified by many of you
quite explicitly as a key potential outcome for MC11. In this regard,
Members have reminded me of the WTO's comparative advantage in this
area as compared with Preferential Trade Agreements."
The Chair also recorded that many Members expressed their very real
disappointment about the absence of an outcome in domestic support
at Nairobi in general and in cotton in particular.
On cotton, his attention was drawn on several occasions during his
consultations to the language used by Ministers in their Decision
Specifically, paragraph 8 reminds members about "efforts that
remain to be made" with regard to trade-distorting domestic subsidies
for cotton production. Indeed, a considerable number of Members have
made it clear to him that they want to take this issue up again.
"In sum, it is clear to me that domestic support, including for
cotton is an issue on which there is general agreement that we need
to explore what may be possible. That said, based on what I have heard
it is clear that this will take some time and that we need to take
due care in how we proceed on this matter."
The Chair noted that no Member had any specific ideas for how to proceed
on domestic support at this early point.
Third, negotiations on market access remain a priority for a large
group of Members and an issue worth discussing for the remainder of
those with whom the Chair had consulted.
Some Members have advised him that progress on market access and domestic
support will need to be contingent on movement elsewhere, including
outside of the agriculture negotiation.
"Other Members have raised very specific issues of interest to
them in the pillar of market access ranging from Tropical Products
to Special Products - a wide range indeed. I have encouraged Members
to continue consulting bilaterally to see where this can take us."
Fourth, with regard to export competition, the Chair reminded members
that the implementation of the Nairobi Ministerial Decision on Export
Competition is a matter for the regular Committee on Agriculture.
"Based on my consultations to date, further negotiations on export
competition were a low priority for most Members. In fact, many Members
made it clear to me that they have limited or no interest in re-engaging
on export competition, given their assessment that the negotiations
in Nairobi went as far as was possible."
Conversely, a small group of Members specifically identified export
credits as an issue of "unfinished business."
The Chair noted that Paragraph 31 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration
explicitly includes export competition as a subject for ongoing negotiation.
"It is up to Members therefore to map out what their Ministers
had in mind for this process, but my role as Chair is clear - I will
facilitate this for the Membership, as required."
Fifth, as part of the wider Article 20 (of the Agreement on Agriculture)
agricultural reform process, several Members observed that it was
important to continue negotiating across all pillars of agriculture.
This is because there is value in the negotiating process in terms
of domestic policy reform.
"Specifically, our negotiations have an important signalling
effect that can help drive, shape and inform domestic agricultural
reform. I strongly share that perspective and believe that this is
what the Agreement on Agriculture is intended to do, i.e. to have
a dynamic policy effect over time."
Finally, said the Chair, a minority of Members has raised with him
what might be termed "other issues," some of which it is
possible to argue could be undertaken through the mandate provided
by the Article 20 reform process.
"Issues raised in this regard include: export restrictions; SPS;
private standards for agricultural products; and disciplines on subsidies
for bio-fuels and bio-energy."
In terms of the way ahead on the substance, Ambassador Vitalis has
encouraged Members - and will continue to encourage them over the
coming weeks and months - to reflect on these priorities.
"Where possible and when they are ready I have asked them to
consider preparing information-focused submissions that can identify
in a crisp and clear manner what the issue is. With improved and as
up-to-date as possible information in front of us as negotiators,
it is my expectation that we can carefully continue to frame and advance
VIEWS OF MEMBERS
The Chair's summation was followed by several interventions from members.
Chile was happy with the outcome at Nairobi on export competition.
What is important is the implementation of the Nairobi decisions.
The unresolved areas of the agriculture negotiations should be taken
up in the Negotiating Group, it added.
Colombia stressed rapid implementation of the Nairobi decisions. The
reforms in agriculture however do not stop here.
The WTO is the appropriate forum to work on domestic support, in order
to level the playing field. Members must be pragmatic but also be
open-minded to new ideas, it said.
Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, said that in most of the LDCs, agriculture
is a highly strategic sector, and 80% of the jobs created are in this
Citing agriculture's potential for economic development, Benin said
this potential cannot be recognised unless the rules are reformed.
It referred to para 13 of the Doha Declaration which addresses agriculture
Benin stressed the importance of DFQF (duty-free quota-free) market
access for the LDCs, as well as the Nairobi decision on export competition.
It appreciated the fact that this decision took into account Special
and Differential Treatment (SDT) for the LDCs.
It underlined that public stockholding for food security purposes
and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) are also mandated in the
On cotton, it said that the Nairobi decision has to be taken together
with the DFQF exercise. It is also important to substantially reduce
and eliminate domestic subsidies. It cited the Hong Kong mandate on
Brazil said that although the results in Nairobi fell short of its
expectations, MC10 still delivered substantive results, the main point
being a strong commitment to advance negotiations on the Doha issues.
It is a clear mandate for members to continue working on agriculture.
Brazil was ready to examine any new issues. However, in no way should
such discussion take place to the detriment of agriculture under the
Doha Round, and stressed the importance of domestic support and market
There are clear instructions to continue working in both these areas.
It also said that SPS and TBT as well as other areas should be dealt
Indonesia, on behalf of the G-33, said that the discussion should
be undertaken prudently in good faith and with a sense of urgency.
It appreciated the affirmation of Ministers in Nairobi that the SSM
and a permanent solution for public stockholding will be undertaken
in dedicated sessions in the Committee.
Noting that there is a commitment to take on public stockholding for
food security, the G-33 is concerned that members are not engaged
yet in finding a permanent solution. It is high time to deliver them
by MC11 (in 2017). There should not be any pre-conditions for negotiations.
Australia said the Cairns Group has been fighting for 30 years to
get rid of export subsidies. Major economies have spent more supporting
farmers these days compared to the days when the WTO was created.
It said that there is need to reflect the reality, namely, that negotiations
in market access have been taken outside of the WTO.
On SSM and public stockholding, there is need for fresh approaches
on these issues. The discussion needs to be based on facts rather
than stereotypes. It is ready to engage constructively.
Argentina said that what is important is to achieve certainty. The
mandate to continue agriculture reform also comes from Article 20
(of the Agreement on Agriculture), which was before Doha.
It welcomed the elimination of export subsidies in Nairobi, but said
that there is no clear result on the market access and domestic support
pillars. There is need to make progress on these fronts as well. It
expressed hope that the moment of reflection would be short.
Switzerland, on behalf of the G-10, said that implementation of the
Nairobi decisions is very important. The G-10 has already started
the internal process in this regard, and it is ready to engage constructively.
It took note of para 31 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD).
The G-10 considers that the priority for future negotiations should
be defined with an open mind.
Rwanda, on behalf of the ACP group, said that MC10 was successful
in moving forward reforms in agriculture. If members want to capitalise
on the Nairobi success, they need to continue with implementation.
On export competition, it expressed hope that the trading partners
would do their homework. On the SSM and public stockholding, it said
that there is need to ensure that members arrive at an outcome by
On the remaining DDA issues, it said delivering on the DDA mandate
should be the priority. S&DT should remain integral to the discussion.
It is also looking for an outcome on domestic support because domestic
subsidies have been damaging its agriculture. The discussions should
start as soon as possible, focusing on delivering for the LDCs.
Mali, on behalf of the Cotton-4 countries, said that although the
decision on cotton is modest, it can consider this result as an important
step forward in the right direction. It reiterated the Hong Kong mandate
on cotton, and said that this was an absolute priority for the group.
Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the Article XII countries (formerly the
Recently Acceded Members), said that the first priority should be
implementation of the Nairobi decisions. The most urgent task is to
harness the positive momentum in Nairobi.
The Philippines, endorsing the G-33 statement, said that the Nairobi
decision (on agriculture) is a modest but tangible gain.
Some aspects of the decision such as export credits, have escaped.
There is need for work to continue on that specific area. Export subsidies
are only the tip of the iceberg.
For the Philippines, reforms in domestic support and market access
are priorities. It said that the SSM and public stockholding to ensure
food security are important.
While it is willing to engage constructively on other issues, there
should be no linkage between SSM or public stockholding and market
access, it said.
Turkey, supporting the G-33 statement, pointed to a lot of uncertainties,
not only in agriculture but also in NAMA and services. There is need
for the negotiations to pick up expeditiously.
The outcome in export competition is far from perfect, and the Nairobi
decision on cotton is much below expectation.
After 15 years of talks, the bulk of the reform agenda is still on
the table, it said.
Export credits, state trading enterprises and food aid under the export
competition pillar are still subject to further work. SSM and a permanent
solution to public stockholding are of particular importance.
South Africa, endorsing the ACP group statement, welcomed the fact
that the first ministerial conference in Africa delivered results.
It supported developing countries' efforts on the SSM.
It was of the view that SSM is a stand-alone issue, and not linked
to market access. SSM will offer some relief to developing countries
for distortions that already exist in the market.
On public stockholding, it looked forward to working with members
towards a permanent solution.
Paraguay said that we must seek tangible results for agriculture producers.
Members must move forward on the domestic support pillar.
Members must also work on market access, which in its view, was the
most tangible result. It is important to eliminate 'water' between
the applied and bound tariffs. No one must be excluded from the multilateral
Mexico said that it is clear that history was created in Nairobi.
It is fully committed. It is also ready to work in an open manner
on the other issues.
The discussion must be holistic. We cannot unlink market access (in
apparent reference to the SSM), it said. And it cannot unlink the
public stockholding issue from the domestic support pillar. This discussion
can only be carried out at the WTO and it must be given the highest
Canada said that on the way forward, the Nairobi package is a positive
and modest outcome. It is the first step in our continued discussion.
It said that work needs to continue on food aid.
On domestic support, Canada said that Agriculture Committee could
start to have an informal discussion. We see some value in taking
time to review the domestic support landscape.
Peru said that all members must work on domestic support, market access
and export competition. It is essential to look into these areas rapidly.
The Rev. 4 draft modalities text served its purpose in Nairobi, where
it was the basis for discussion on export competition.
The Rev.4 can continue to serve as the basis in other areas. There
is also need to guarantee a transparent and inclusive process, it
said. It is open to consider new issues as long as the issues of interest
to it are looked into.
Thailand said that agriculture is the centre of the negotiations.
Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture mandates the members to
continue the work.
It will continue to contribute constructively including on the SSM,
public stockholding and export competition.
Uruguay stressed the importance of the domestic support pillar and
hoped to achieve results on this issue.
Nicaragua said that the priority must be on achieving results. It
favours the effective implementation of the Nairobi outcomes. Elimination
of domestic support contributes to fair trade.
It also was in favour of market access for agricultural products.
It further highlighted the issues of SSM, public stockholding and
cotton which it said are essential.
Korea supported the G-10 and G-33 statements. The first priority is
to implement the Nairobi decisions. Though they look humble, it is
priceless to secure outcomes, particularly on SSM and public stockholding
in dedicated sessions.
New Zealand said that MC10 demonstrates that the WTO can deliver.
The most immediate job is to implement these decisions. There continues
to be significant work left ahead of members on market access and
The European Union said there is need to ensure that the decision
on export competition is fully implemented. It is committed to implementing
the Nairobi decisions. It expects to see all elements of the decisions
implemented equally. It stressed on transparency and enforceability.
The EU said that we are entering a new phase in the agriculture negotiations.
Two issues need to be addressed.
First, to advance the Doha issues, and the second is to look at new
issues. It is ready to continue to move forward on the outstanding
The WTO framework is the most appropriate forum to discuss domestic
support, it said, adding that if the past methods have not been successful,
it is open to address new issues. It noted that the NMD also refers
to the possibility of new issues.
On the SSM, the EU said that Ministers agreed to pursue negotiations,
and it is ready to continue discussions as it has done before.
Pakistan, referring to International Women's Day, said that over 70%
of employed women in Pakistan work in agriculture. Market access and
domestic support are still outstanding, which are critical issues
Cotton remains as work under progress. Distortions in agriculture
affect the poorest producers and consumers in the world, it said.
Uganda voiced agreement with the LDC, ACP and the G-33 statements.
It welcomed the outcome in Nairobi on export competition and cotton.
It voiced regret that public stockholding and SSM were not delivered.
Agriculture is an important sector for Uganda, and it can play an
important role in reducing the vulnerability of its poor people as
well as its farmers, who continue to face highly subsidised inputs.
It also said that domestic support is a key issue. Without that, it
is like pouring water in a basket, it added.
It further stressed on the need for DFQF market access for the LDCs,
the SSM and a permanent solution for public stockholding.
Cuba, endorsing the G-33 and ACP statements, said that it is important
to continue work in an inclusive and transparent manner. The work
in agriculture must respect the Doha mandate. The Rev. 4 text should
continue to be the benchmark in the negotiations.
On market access, it said it wished to preserve the treatment accorded
to the Small and Vulnerable Economies.
The SSM, public stockholding for food security and Special Products
are important to Cuba in the framework of the Doha negotiations.
Bolivia, endorsing the G-33 statement, said that the Nairobi decision
on export competition is undoubtedly an achievement. But there is
need to continue the reforms in order to achieve a level playing field.
There is a high convergence that the Rev.4 text is important and is
the best benchmark.
Special Products should be respected and priority must also be given
to work on SSM and public stockholding, it said.
The United States, in reference to International Women's Day, said
that agriculture is important for women and women are important for
It noted that over two months have passed since the Nairobi Ministerial
Conference. It welcomed the fact that WTO members finally delivered
on export competition in agriculture, so that agriculture producers
can look ahead.
In the US' view, it is apparent that this is a good opportunity to
switch to a problem-solving mode. It is ready to engage with an open
It said we might move ahead in the WTO and free of the Doha architecture.
It is prepared to bring its best energy.
At home, the US has been asking what today's landscape reveals, and
it is doing a lot of thinking internally.
It raised some questions to kick-start a discussion. What are the
trade distortions in today's landscape? What are the impacts on producers,
importers and exporters? Should we strengthen the role of the WTO's
regular committees? What are the benefits of previous negotiations
in multilateral and plurilateral fora?
The US recalled that in Davos, USTR Michael Froman had counselled
that members have to engage in discussions. This will take time and
members must avoid the impulse to force formal negotiations too soon.
It will engage in discussions and reflections. The existing structures
at the WTO can allow members to engage in discussions. An example
being the regular Agriculture Committee.
On the SSM, the US said that any meeting should be within the context
of the agriculture negotiations.
Venezuela reiterated the mandate set out in para 13, 14 and 15 of
the Doha Declaration. They continue to provide the framework for discussion.
The Nairobi decisions on SSM, public stockholding and cotton give
these items a place on the negotiating agenda. The Rev. 4 text was
a key to finding a solution in Nairobi, it noted.
Norway voiced agreement with the G-10 statement. This is a period
of constructive interaction. Members may come forward with ideas.
Having realistic ambition is also important. We should deliver more,
and not only on agriculture.
The discussion should be among all members and not among 5,7 or 9
members. It recognised that some market access negotiations are outside
the WTO. However, the WTO is the only place where tariff reduction
is done on an MFN basis.
It is willing to continue discussion on domestic support, but it recognises
that it will be very difficult if members maintain their old positions.
China, supporting the G-33 statement, welcomed the decisions at MC10.
Ministerial decisions should be effectively implemented, it said.
Agriculture remains the key issue on the DDA. There is need to keep
balanced progress across all the three pillars.
On the future of the DDA negotiations, it said the remaining issues
should still be pursued. The remaining issues need to be resolved.
On new approaches and ideas, China said that if proposals are being
put forward, it will study them. It cautioned that the DDA is not
only about agriculture.
India supported the G-33 statement. On public stockholding, it reminded
members of the General Council decision of November 2014. Similarly,
Ministers decided to pursue SSM in dedicated sessions.
It reminded again that the cut-off to find a permanent solution for
public stockholding is by MC11 in 2017. Any success of MC11 is contingent
on a permanent solution for public stockholding.
Noting that a few members have today linked the SSM and market access,
India warned that this is not going to lead to success. All the Ministerial
decisions have to be respected. And this has to be a member-driven
Just floating off ideas without concrete proposals would not bring
success, India added, urging members to bring forward concrete proposals.
Zimbabwe endorsed the G-33 and ACP statements. Welcoming the Nairobi
outcomes, it called upon members to implement these outcomes. The
Rev.4 text should continue to be the basis of the discussions.
Nigeria endorsed the G-33 and ACP group statements.
According to trade officials, the Chair concluded the meeting by informing
members that he would hold another round of consultations to pin down
the content as well as the format of the discussions.
He will then take a decision on the timing for the next meeting as
well as the issues members will canvass. He encouraged members to
talk with each other and to share more information.