11 November 1998

General Council

WTO Agriculture Negotiations
Communication from Australia

The following communication, dated 10 November 1998, has been received from the Permanent Mission of Australia.

The preparatory process agreed to by WTO Members in the Declaration of the second WTO Ministerial Conference must deliver by the third WTO Ministerial Conference an appropriate ministerial decision on the resumption of the agriculture negotiations, as mandated under Article 20 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. This decision must address the scope, structure and timeframe for the negotiations.

I. Scope

1. The decision on the agriculture negotiations will need to identify objectives for the negotiations. The new negotiations will continue the reform process begun by the Uruguay Round. It is 12 years since the long-term objectives for the Uruguay Round negotiations on agriculture were set. The new negotiations must be ambitious to deliver the long-term objectives of the Uruguay Round.

2. The Agreement on Agriculture provides the basic scope of the negotiations. Article 20 requires that negotiations continue the process of substantial progressive reductions in support and protection initiated by the Uruguay Round negotiations. The preamble to the Agreement recalls that the long-term objective of reform of trade in agriculture agreed at the mid-term review of the Uruguay Round "is to establish a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system" and that this be achieved through "commitments on support and protection and through the establishment of strengthened and more operationally effective GATT rules and disciplines". A central part of the agricultural negotiations will thus be further, specific commitments in the three reform areas of market access, domestic support and export subsidies.

3. If it is to adequately meet the requirements of the Agreement on Agriculture as set out in the preamble and Article 20, the negotiations will also need to address how and when agriculture can be subjected fully to the GATT (1994) and other relevant WTO agreements. It may also need to address issues which currently lie outside the realm of the Agreement on Agriculture. Members have raised a number of issues that have negatively affected and will continue to affect the implementation of reductions in support and protection, such as tariff quota administration.

II. Structure

4. The structure of the agriculture negotiations will need to be specified. This will require addressing how and in what bodies agricultural trade issues will be negotiated, and the chairing of such negotiating bodies.

III. Time-frame

5. The negotiations are mandated to begin before the end of 1999. Setting a time-frame for the completion of the agriculture negotiations will be important to ensure that they are completed expeditiously. In this context, some Members have noted the relevance of the 2003 expiry date for the provisions of Article 13 of the Agreement on Agriculture (the "peace clause").

6. Also important will be the setting of deadlines within the overall time-frame. These negotiating deadlines should be specified in the decision launching the negotiations. It will also be important to provide a mechanism for Members to review progress in the negotiations.

Last Updated: 24 February 2016