5. Export restrictions in November 2021 draft agriculture negotiations text

Little sign of convergence in the draft WTO agriculture text, November 19, 2021 | farming, Luxembourg (Johny Goerend, Unsplash)

See also
Pre-ministerial draft shows little to harvest in WTO farm talks

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

By Peter Ungphakorn

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 export restrictions — the chair’s assessment, and her draft.

As she explains, the draft decision on exempting the World Food Programme from export restrictions is now annexed as a separate draft decision.

MC12 = 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. AoA = WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Hyperlinks in the texts are added.


5.1          The revised text on export prohibitions or restrictions reflects the view, broadly shared by Members, that the two elements of this topic contained in document JOB/AG/215 should be addressed in separate decisions. Thus, the draft Decision on exempting WFP food purchases from export restrictions is now presented as a stand-alone Decision.

5.2          Discussions since July 2021 have indeed confirmed that Members hold in high esteem the work of the WFP and are willing to make their best efforts to support it, especially at a moment when the number of undernourished people is growing again. In this context, a vast majority of Members view this as a “very low hanging fruit” for MC12.

5.3          The draft text in Annex I is intended to capture the current state of play following the efforts that Members have made in recent weeks to explore possible compromises by adjusting the text in document JOB/AG/215. These changes have sought to strike a careful balance between, on the one hand, the concerns of Members where the foodstuff is purchased by WFP, while on the other hand acknowledging the fact that the WFP purchases food in accordance with its existing practices and principles to avoid negative impacts on such Members. The text is also intended to take on board sensitivities expressed by some Members regarding the reference to Article 12 of the AoA and Article XI of the GATT 1994.4

4 In document RD/AG/90.

5.4          One Member that has ongoing concerns restated the questions it had posed to the proponents and WFP. These have sought examples of actual export restrictions hindering the Organization’s work in the past, and an assessment of the potential impact of such measures in the future. One of the proponents submitted a communication on 16 November aimed at providing responses to these questions.

5.5          In light of these remaining concerns, the draft text acknowledges that it may be difficult to attain a multilateral outcome on this issue. In such a scenario, it is suggested that Members take note of the adoption of the Joint Statement WT/L/1109 or of any subsequent joint initiative that may be developed in the coming days in this regard.

5.6         On the other element, namely, enhancing compliance with notification requirements under AoA Article 12, Members have engaged in active and constructive discussions since July, including during the “Room D” process. The draft text reflects a possible outcome which has emerged from such discussions, consisting of the following four elements:

a.             the continuation of the negotiation post-MC12;

b.            a transparency work programme in the context of the regular CoA aimed at updating, transparency requirements, as part of the overall transparency-enhancing efforts. This transparency work programme should be read together with the horizontal section on transparency issues at the end of the revised text in the Annex;

c.             the provision of technical assistance upon request by the Secretariat, as well as annual supporting trade data to facilitate the implementation of the existing transparency requirements, and

d.            a potential deliverable on the timeline for advance notice pursuant to Article 12 of the AoA on a “best endeavour” basis, pending the outcome of a post-MC12 work programme.

5.7          Regarding this latter issue, I have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by some Members that are reluctant to accept new commitments that could pre-empt the post-MC12 work on transparency in this area, as well as concerns regarding the feasibility and potential impacts on markets of such practices.

5.8          I nevertheless consider that a “best endeavour” outcome on this issue should preserve the interests of these Members facing difficulties, while at the same time enhancing the transparency and predictability of international markets for the benefit of importing countries, including — most importantly — developing ones.

Compare with May 2022 text
(export restrictions = one paragraph;
World Food Programme exemption adds a paragraph)
Compare with July 2021 text


25.          We commend the humanitarian work by the World Food Programme and its valuable contribution to global food security.

26.         [In this regard, we take note of the Joint Statement on agriculture export prohibitions or restrictions relating to the World Food Programme adopted by a group of Members on XX/XX/2021 in document YYY and shall continue to consider possible avenues to facilitate its work.][In this regard, we adopt the decision contained in Annex I.]



The Ministerial Conference,

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

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,

Decides as follows:

Members shall not impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme.


27.          We agree to continue negotiations after MC12 with the aim of enhancing transparency and predictability of export prohibitions and restrictions, including by exploring ways to clarify provisions of Article 12 of the Agreement on Agriculture regarding relevant aspects of these measures, such as: (i) how due consideration was given to the effects on importing Members’ food security; (ii) practices regarding advance written notice; (iii) transparency requirements for measures of long duration, and (iv) other aspects Members consider relevant.

28.          For the purposes of Article 12.1(b) of the Agreement on Agriculture, pending the outcome of the negotiation on this issue, any Member instituting any export prohibitions or restrictions to prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs in accordance with Article XI.2(a) of the GATT 1994 shall, where possible, endeavour to 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.

29.         The provisions in paragraph 28 shall not apply to (i) any least developed country or net food-importing developing country (NFIDC)3 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.

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

30.          With a view to ensuring effective implementation of Articles 12 and 18 of the Agreement on Agriculture, we invite the WTO Secretariat to:

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

b.            provide annual data on volumes and values of exports and imports by Members, covering agriculture products as defined in Annex 1 of the Agreement on Agriculture.4

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

31.           We agree to explore ways in the Committee on Agriculture to review and update the notification requirements related to export prohibitions and restrictions through an evidence-based process, taking due account of the capacity constraints that some developing country Members including especially the least developed among them are facing.

> Back to: introduction, conclusion and list of topics

Updates: None so far
Image credit: Background aerial shot of farmland | Johny Goerend, Unsplash licence

%d bloggers like this: