Views Mixed on Informal Ag Talks


Several industrialized countries, including the United States and China, as well as developing countries, actively engaged in the informal process launched by Brazil on how to move the agriculture negotiations forward, said people familiar with the developments.

However, at that meeting, several other developing and some least-developed countries, including India, clearly signaled their indifference to a parallel informal process outside the discussions that come under the purview of the Doha agriculture negotiating body, which is rebranded as the Committee on Agriculture Special Session, said people familiar with the discussions.

Brazil, which has been piloting the informal negotiations based on its proposal that was submitted on April 8, held two informal meetings on May 30 and June 5 in which many members took part while delivering mixed responses on the process-related issues, said people familiar with the meetings.

At both informal meetings, Brazil is understood to have said that it will go ahead with the informal process, including a heads of delegations meeting, before formally submitting the outcome at the end-July General Council meeting, said people familiar with the discussions.

Though Brazil maintained in the previous meeting that the informal process “complements” the COASS mandated negotiating forum, several developing countries stated that they would only engage in the ongoing discussions at the COASS, said people who asked not to be quoted.
“Positions are too far apart and eventually everything has to come to the COASS,” said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

Significantly, several industrialized countries – China, United States and United Kingdom – and members of the Cairns Group of farm exporting countries as well as the Caribbean countries extended their support to the Brazilian informal process, said people who asked not to be quoted.

When asked about growing concerns of several developing countries with the informal process, a proponent of the Brazilian informal process said: “No developing country is unhappy. India was there yesterday for the second time and did not dissociate.”

The proponent added: “There is nothing to dissociate from, as it is completely informal. The DG is fully in support as is the COA-SS chair, from Turkey. US and China in full support. EU very much there. Full room (of members who took part in the meeting).”

Even though some industrialized countries like the United States seemed open to the informal discussions on the Brazilian proposal, privately they reckon that nothing would come out of these discussions, said another trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

During the General Council meeting last month, China said that “taking into account the current situation and the multiple challenges facing members, especially the developing members, we call on members to kick off frank and effective dialogues, to mull on the way forward in a creative, practical and constructive way, rather than to repeat previous failures.”

China also cautioned that “the position-repeating approach will not lead agriculture to the successful outcome.”

At that GC meeting, Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed Brazil’s proposal, suggesting that she is confident that an outcome on agriculture is possible following the Brazilian initiative, said people familiar with the development.

Brazil’s Proposal

Brazil on April 8 tabled a draft decision aimed at accelerating the agriculture negotiations, proposing that members adopt a decision at the WTO’s General Council in July before the summer break on “moving the agriculture negotiations forward”.

Coming close on the heels of a failure to arrive at any outcome on agriculture at the WTO’s 13th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi in March, the Brazilian proposal (WT/GC/W/931) suggests some significant changes in arriving at modalities in all areas, particularly on domestic support, before the WTO’s 14th ministerial conference (MC14).

However, Brazil suggested one major change by deleting the first option on the permanent solution for public stockholding (PSH) programs for food security, as contained in the revised MC13 draft agriculture text that was prepared by the European Union, where two options were proposed.

Brazil proposed the following timelines:

  1. In order to achieve tangible progress and concrete outcomes, Members instruct the CoA-SS Chair to provide, based on Members’ contributions, annual negotiating schedules to discuss all aspects, including the elements and the methodology, of each of the negotiating topics in this Decision.
  2. The General Council shall regularly review progress in these negotiations.
  3. Senior Officials will review the progress achieved in the negotiations one year after MC13,
  4. particularly in relation to the definition of the elements and the methodology of implementation of the reform, and make recommendations for the way forward.
  5. Members shall adopt an intermediate framework of the agreement 4 months before MC14. This framework shall provide a comprehensive view of the basic structures of the agreement or other outcomes to be delivered by MC14 and may include texts with different levels of maturity.
  6. Members shall adopt a decision on modalities by MC14. Modalities shall be implemented as a package taking into consideration the overall balance of outcomes in Agriculture in a timeframe to be decided by Members.



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