5. Export restrictions in July 2021 draft agriculture negotiations text

The draft aims for decisions at the November 30–December 3, 2021 ministerial conference (“MC12”)

See also
New agriculture draft suggests nervousness in divided WTO

Previous: 4. export competition/subsidies | next: 6. cotton

By Peter Ungphakorn

Note: the official July 29, 2021 draft text for the WTO agriculture negotiations is here with a minor correction here. Links to all sections are here.

This page combines the two sections of the text on export restrictions, the chair’s assessment, and her draft


5.1.         On export prohibitions or restrictions, the text seeks to reflect possible areas of convergence on the two issues under discussion: exempting WFP food purchases from export restrictions and enhancing compliance with notification requirements under AoA Article 12.

5.2.         Regarding the first issue, Members have acknowledged the WFP’s admirable work to fight hunger and malnutrition, which was duly recognized through the award of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the WFP. I have listened carefully to the discussions to date, including following the most recent submission by the African Group.4 My assessment remains that the text emerging from the December 2020 discussions as set out in the Facilitator’s report5 continues to be a plausible basis for Members to re-engage in the negotiations with a view to reaching an agricultural outcome at MC12. Many Members have reiterated their support for this text, as it could facilitate the highly valued humanitarian work of the WFP, while taking due account of supplying Members’ concerns regarding domestic policy and food security considerations.

4 JOB/AG/206.                      5 JOB/AG/201.

5.3.         On the second issue, the text is intended to capture various elements identified in the proponents’ submissions in particular JOB/AG/207, and related discussions to date, taking into account their varying degrees of maturity. It recognizes in particular the importance of transparency in minimizing the potential effects of export restrictions on price volatility and the food security of importing countries, while acknowledging the concerns expressed by a large group of developing country Members regarding the possible burden associated with any additional requirements. In particular, the text envisages a best-endeavour clause for a 30-day time period for advance notice and, as an alternative, an obligation with the same period except in situations involving force majeure. Further, the text suggests concrete ways in which the Secretariat could further assist Members in fulfilling notification obligations and notes the possibility for Members to explore how to revise G/AG/2. As is the case for all the other topics, this section which also provides for the continuation of the negotiations post-MC12, should be read in light of the entire text, taking due account of the need expressed by Members to ensure a proper balance across various issues and priorities.

Compare with new November 2021 text


The Ministerial Conference,

Having regard to Paragraph 1 of Article IX of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization;

Recalling and reaffirming Article 12 of the Agreement on Agriculture and Article XI of GATT 1994;

In view of the critical humanitarian support provided by the World Food Programme, made more urgent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises,

With the understanding that the World Food Programme always takes procurement decisions on the basis of its principles to “do no harm” to the supplying Member and promote local and regional food procurement,

Emphasizing the importance of transparency and effective monitoring of export prohibitions and restrictions of foodstuffs to a predictable international trading environment and international food security, including in light of the COVID-19 pandemic;

Taking note of the proposals made by Members in this regard;

Decides as follows:

1.             Members shall not impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchased for non- commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme. [It is understood that Members’ food security shall not be jeopardized as a result of these purchases.]

2.            For the purposes of Article 12.1(b) of the Agreement on Agriculture, any Member instituting any export prohibitions or restrictions to prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs in accordance with Article XI.2(a) of GATT 1994 shall [, where possible,] give notice in writing to the Committee on Agriculture of the measure no later than [30 days], prior to the coming into force of the measure. [However, where critical shortage of foodstuffs is caused by an event constituting force majeure, the [30 days] prior notification period need not apply. In such circumstances, the Member shall give notice in writing, as far in advance as practicable to the Committee on Agriculture, but no later than [10 days] after it takes effect.]

3.             The provisions in paragraph 2 of this Decision shall not apply to (i) any least developed country or net food-importing developing country (NFIDC)1 Member instituting new temporary export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs; or (ii) any other developing country Member instituting new temporary export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs, unless the measure is taken by a developing country Member which is a net-food exporter of the specific foodstuff concerned.

             1 As listed in the latest revision of G/AG/5.

4.            With a view to better assisting Members in the implementation of Articles 12 and 18 of the Agreement on Agriculture, Members invite the WTO Secretariat to:

4.1          pursue efforts to assist developing country Members to comply with the relevant notification requirements, including through ad hoc advice, technical assistance and capacity-building support, and

4.2          provide annual data on volumes and values of exports and imports by Members, covering agriculture products as defined in Annex I of the Agreement on Agriculture.2

            2 These data shall be sourced from officially available international databases, data provided by WTO Members to the WTO Secretariat or other relevant easily accessible well-recognized sources.

5.            Members reaffirm their right to have recourse to paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article 18 of the Agreement on Agriculture in relation to export prohibitions or restrictions.

6.            Members having recourse to the consultation mechanism pursuant to Article 12.1.(b) of the Agreement on Agriculture shall endeavour to report to the Committee on Agriculture the progress made in the consultations as early as practicable.

7.            [Members commit to exploring ways to update and clarify the notification requirements and formats under G/AG/2, taking due account of the capacity constraints of some Members. These may include clarifications related to the description of the critical shortages justifying the imposition of the measure or the way in which due consideration was given to the effects on importing Members’ food security.]

8.            Members shall continue negotiations on ways to improve the transparency and predictability of export prohibitions and restrictions after MC12, including by looking at ways to clarify relevant WTO provisions, including in relation to notification requirements for measures of long duration.

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Updates: None so far
Image credit: Background aerial shot of farmland | Julian Ebert, Unsplash, CCO

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