By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED DECEMBER 9, 2021 | UPDATED DECEMBER 9, 2021
Note: the official draft text is available as a public document here. It was circulated on November 23, 2021 by Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, the present chair of the negotiations. See the WTO news story of November 25 on the release and discussion. Links to all sections are here.
This page combines the two sections of the text on domestic support, the chair’s assessment, and her draft
Note that on market access the draft is considerably shorter than the July version. The two detailed sections on enhancing transparency in applied tariff rate changes, including a notification template, are reduced to the single paragraph 19. Also gone is a section on what might be discussed after the Ministerial Conference.
3 MARKET ACCESS
3.1 As I stated during the presentation of my draft text in July 2021, an outcome in the Market Access pillar would help Members to attain an overall balance in the agriculture negotiations. My subsequent consultations with Members have since confirmed this view. I am also very aware of the great political sensitivity of this pillar for several Members. My revised simplified text on a market access work programme seeks to respond to the comments and concerns I have heard in my post-July consultations. Broadly, the draft work programme in the revised text entails negotiations covering all elements of the Market Access pillar and acknowledges the need for technical discussions to inform these negotiations. Specific principles such as a “harmonizing” tariff reduction approach, which formed part of the July draft text, have not been retained in this revised version.
3.2 In my July draft text, I had also proposed a transparency exercise for Members to report ad valorem equivalents (AVEs) of bound non-ad valorem agricultural tariffs in their Schedules. During my consultations, several Members considered such an exercise to be premature in the absence of any clarity on the tariff reduction modality, and argued it was not necessarily useful in the absence of a common methodology to undertake the proposed conversion. The revised draft text omits this element.
3.3 As Members preferred to consider transparency under each area or pillar, the revised text includes elements of further work on improving market access transparency and notification compliance, to be pursued in the Committee on Agriculture.
3.4 On the issue of applied tariff transparency, some Members remain concerned about logistical constraints or the implications of the proposed decision for possible legislative changes that it might necessitate. I sensed the reluctance of those Members to consider a definitive agreement at MC12, even on a “best endeavour” or voluntary basis. Accordingly, I have proposed that Members’ work in this area continues in the Committee on Market Access, anchored by their sharing of current national practices when changing applied tariffs, and with a view to developing a non-exhaustive list of good practices for national customs authorities.
IN DRAFT MINISTERIAL DECISION
17. We agree to continue negotiations, as mandated by Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture, on all elements of agricultural market access after MC12 with a view to improving substantially and progressively market access opportunities for Members. Technical discussions on relevant elements in the Market Access pillar shall be undertaken to inform these negotiations. The negotiations shall take into account special and differential treatment for least developed and developing country Members, non-trade concerns of Members, and progress on other outstanding agricultural issues.
18. We agree to make all efforts to comply with current notification obligations under the Market Access pillar with assistance from the WTO Secretariat, as necessary. We also commit to enhance transparency and streamline existing market access notification requirements and formats through a detailed work programme to be elaborated by the Committee on Agriculture.
19. We agree that enhanced transparency in the application of changes to MFN ordinary applied tariff rates would provide greater certainty and predictability to businesses and traders, especially those who have shipments en route to destinations which may effect changes in their tariffs. We also recognize that some Members currently have provisions in place that provide greater certainty through various mechanisms. Accordingly, Members agree to provide details1 on their current practices on effecting changes in MFN applied tariffs to the Committee on Market Access with a view to establishing a non-exhaustive list of good practices for customs authorities to take into account when effecting changes to a Member’s applied ordinary tariff rates.
1 This may contain, inter alia, the following information: (i) the current domestic procedures for changing MFN applied tariffs; (ii) timing of the publication of the information on changes in applied tariffs; (iii) whether the proposal to change applied tariffs is published at the draft stage providing an opportunity to interested parties to provide comments; and (iv) how shipments en route or in-transit are treated when there is a change in applied tariff rates and whether this treatment differs depending on whether there is a tariff rate increase or decrease.