22 de mayo de 2024

Las negociaciones sobre la agricultura se adentran en la recta final a medida que se acerca la CM13

En la primera sesión de reuniones de las negociaciones sobre la agricultura celebrada este año los días 16 y 17 de enero, el Embajador Alparslan Acarsoy (Türkiye), Presidente de las conversaciones, instó a los delegados a que se centraran “de forma más específica y concreta” en los posibles resultados de la próxima Decimotercera Conferencia Ministerial (CM13), que se celebrará en Abu Dabi del 26 al 29 de febrero. Los participantes examinaron también comunicaciones nuevas o revisadas sobre las restricciones a la exportación de alimentos; la producción agrícola y el comercio de los países en desarrollo importadores netos de productos alimenticios (PDINPA) y los países menos adelantados (PMA); y la ayuda interna al sector agropecuario.

(de momento sólo en inglés)

 

Chair’s report on state of play

The Chair reported on his recent consultations with WTO members and groups. “I was encouraged by the engagement and constructive spirit demonstrated by the participants,” he said.

 

He noted the strong desire of members to achieve a result on agriculture at MC13. Most members consider that the upcoming ministerial conference will not be able to agree on “modalities” setting out formulas for new commitments. They do however agree that MC13 should serve as a significant stepping stone to MC14, he said. He noted that WTO members still differ in their views on the shape of a possible MC13 agriculture package, with some stressing a holistic approach that would encompass all issues, and others prioritizing specific topics.

 

While members emphasize the need for the WTO to remain committed in doing its part to address the food security challenges, similar differences of views exist on how to achieve this goal in the most efficient way.

 

Despite the persistent differences between WTO members, an outcome on agriculture at MC13 is still achievable, the Chair said. This could include an acknowledgment of the work undertaken in the agriculture negotiations so far, including recent submissions, as a basis for work after MC13. It could also articulate what WTO members expect can be achieved, taking into account contemporary challenges such as food security and climate change, by providing some clear indications of the way forward — including general objectives, principles and timetables.

 

Any outcome would need to strike a proper balance between the need for a comprehensive approach and the different individual priorities of members, he said. Conceivably, an outcome could also include some deliverables on specific topics where these are possible.

 

Reaching an agreement among WTO members along these lines could help pave the way for a more ambitious result at MC14, he added.

 

Chair: Very little time left

Reminding trade officials that they have “very little time left”, the Chair invited negotiators to share their views on realistic outcomes for MC13, and on how best to reconcile divergent positions.

 

At the meeting, several members suggested defining a roadmap or work programme that could take stock of what has been done in the past two years and provide political guidance on the way forward. They emphasized that this would need to follow a holistic approach including all agriculture topics related to agriculture reform to strike a balance.

 

Some other members considered the outcome should  focus on specific issues they see as priorities in light of past mandates: agreeing on the long-overdue “permanent solution” to the challenges many developing countries say they face when buying food at government-set prices for public stocks; making progress on the proposed new “special safeguard mechanism”, which would allow developing countries to raise tariffs temporarily in the event of a sudden price drop or surge in import volumes; and the reduction of trade-distorting support to cotton producers. However, others insisted on a holistic approach to include all topics related to agriculture reform.

 

Several members highlighted food security as an important priority, with some of them calling for ministers to agree on immediate measures to help LDCs and NFIDCs in light of their specific vulnerabilities, as a follow-up to the declaration that was agreed at the last ministerial conference (MC12). The discussions around the new submissions introduced during the meeting demonstrated here again some divergences of views on the possible scope of such an initiative.

 

Food stocks bought at administered prices

On 16 January, the Chair facilitated a discussion on the issue of  public stockholding programmes for food security purposes. WTO members have agreed to pursue a “permanent solution” to the challenges some developing economies face under WTO rules when buying food at government-set prices under these programmes.

 

India gave a presentation that reviewed the negotiating mandates and emphasized the importance of progress in this area at MC13.

 

Some developing country members at the meeting called for an MC13 outcome based on the joint submission JOB/AG/229, which would expand the scope and coverage of an interim solution that was agreed at the Bali ministerial conference in 2013. While the Bali agreement shields certain programmes from legal challenge, under certain conditions, the proposal would extend this to all developing countries, include more products and programmes and provide additional policy space to provide domestic support. Exporting countries have argued that this would allow some major agricultural exporting countries to distort global markets, undermining rural livelihoods and food security in other countries.

 

Some negotiators at the meeting suggested WTO members should seek to reach a partial outcome on this negotiating topic  if a permanent solution is out of reach for MC13.

 

Some agricultural exporting countries argued that a “permanent solution” to the challenges that some developing countries have raised should not be modelled on the Bali approach. Instead, they suggested addressing this topic within the context of the broader reform of agricultural domestic support.

 

New submissions

At the meeting, members discussed several new or revised submissions. The United Kingdom presented a revised proposal on export restrictions on food (JOB/AG/250/Rev.1), while the African Group  presented a paper on agricultural production and trade (JOB/AG/257) which they had previously also circulated at the WTO General Council. The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries presented a revised submission on cuts to domestic support (JOB/AG/243/Rev.2). Two related informal “room documents” on support to specific agricultural products were also presented by Cairns Group members.

 

Next steps

The Chair stated that he is still exploring whether a written text could be prepared for ministers to consider at MC13. He said he was planning to hold more consultations and negotiation meetings in the coming days to build on his discussions so far.

 

The dates of the next negotiating meetings will be announced soon.

 

More

The WTO’s agriculture negotiations encompass various topics, including domestic support, market access, export competition, export restrictions, cotton, public stockholding for food security purposes, the special safeguard mechanism and the cross-cutting issue of transparency.

 

More on the WTO agriculture negotiations: WTO | Agriculture — negotiations

 

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