Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations which, since its launch in November 2001, experienced various periods of progress and stalemate.
At the end of the Uruguay Round, WTO Members recognized (in Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture) the long-term objective of substantial progressive reductions in support and protection, resulting in fundamental reform, as an on-going process. They agreed to initiate negotiations to continue the process one year before the end of the implementation period for developed countries (i.e. in 2000).
The Doha Development Agenda
The Doha Round of WTO negotiations, also called Doha Development Agenda or DDA, were launched in November 2001 in Doha, Qatar, and have since then experienced various periods of progress and stalemate.
Building upon principles and objectives established under the 2001 Doha Declaration, the July 2004 Framework Agreement and the December 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, WTO Members have been engaged, in particular in the second half of 2007 and in 2008, in negotiating detailed disciplines (called 'modalities') that would apply to agricultural and non-agricultural goods.
Agreement on these modalities, once reached, would allow WTO Members to prepare their detailed list of commitments, or schedules. The latter would, together with agreed disciplines in other areas of negotiations, such as for example services or intellectual property, constitute the elements for the final agreement concluding the Round. Commitments are then generally expected to be implemented over transitional periods.
Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Doha Round, not least because of the level of developing countries' involvement. Negotiations on agriculture cover three areas or pillars: domestic support (subsidies), market access (import regime, including tariffs), and export competition (export refunds, export credits, food aid and state-trading enterprises).
Since July 2007, successive draft modalities tabled by the Chair of the agricultural negotiations have been the basis of substantive work at Senior Official level, as well as Ministers' consideration in July 2008.
The fourth revision or 'Rev. 4' reflects the state of play and the high level of convergence reached among Members in December 2008, while acknowledging a certain number of outstanding issues.
The road to Bali
After the failure of the WTO Ministerial Conference of July 2008, there were several attempts to re-launch the talks in the framework of the single undertaking. However, after years of efforts, Ministers concluded at the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference (Geneva – December 2011) that the negotiations encompassing all elements of the DDA were at an impasse and invited members to explore different negotiating approaches.
As from 2012, members engaged in a new negotiating process and sought to make progress on a limited agenda by picking “low-hanging fruit”. This process led to MC9, the 9th Ministerial Conference (Bali – December 2013) where agreement was reached on several specific decisions (Trade Facilitation, LDCs, agriculture, cotton etc).
Post Bali process
Building on the successful outcome of the Bali conference, Ministers prompted members to prepare within the next 12 months a clearly defined work programme on the remaining DDA issues. This work programme will build on the decisions taken at the 9th Ministerial Conference particularly on agriculture, development and LDC issues, as well as all other issues under the Doha mandate that are central to concluding the Round.