The successful WTO Conference saw one big failure: agriculture

Less attention has been paid to this failure. It sheds light on what may lie ahead as members face more difficult hurdles on really tough issues.

See also
WTO members achieve breakthrough, but the tough part is what happens next | Have we just seen the funeral of the WTO ‘single undertaking’? | Our scorecards

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JULY 4, 2022 | UPDATED JULY 10, 2022

The June 12–17 Ministerial Conference has been hailed as a rare success for the World Trade Organization (WTO) because it produced a package of new agreements and consensus statements on a range of issues, including fisheries conservation, health, electronic commerce and food insecurity.

Less attention has been paid to the Geneva meeting’s big failure. There was no outcome on agriculture. That should not be overlooked. It has implications not only for agriculture, but for members’ ability to reach consensus on really tough issues.

Continue reading “The successful WTO Conference saw one big failure: agriculture”

Two last-minute agriculture proposals land as WTO conference approaches

Brazil submits first ever counter proposal from “non-demandeurs” on domestic support in public stockholding

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 3, 2022 (REPLACING THIS ORIGINAL PAGE) | UPDATED JUNE 3, 2022

Less than two weeks before the re-scheduled World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, two new proposals were circulated on May 31, 2022, on the most difficult subject in the agriculture negotiations — including the first from a “non-demandeur”.

The two proposals are from opposite sides on how to deal with domestic support in developing countries’ stockholding programmes for food security.

The debate in a meeting of WTO ambassadors two days later showed how far apart members still are on this with only 10 days to go before their ministers meet in Geneva. Members are now holding round-the-clock meetings to prepare for their June 12–15 Ministerial Conference

Continue reading “Two last-minute agriculture proposals land as WTO conference approaches”

Two last-minute agriculture proposals land as WTO conference approaches

Brazil submits first ever counter proposal from “non-demandeurs” on domestic support in public stockholding

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 1, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 1, 2022

Less than two weeks before the re-scheduled World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, two new proposals were circulated on the most difficult subject in the agriculture negotiations — including the first from “non-demandeurs”.

The two proposals are from opposite sides on how to deal with domestic support in developing countries’ stockholding programmes for food security.

… This has been updated and re-posted here

Five takeaways from the WTO seminar on food security

The Ukraine war threatens food security but over-reaction is not the answer, delegates hear

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED APRIL 26, 2022 | UPDATED APRIL 26, 2022

Countries should avoid reacting hastily to the food security challenge posed by the war in Ukraine and avoid worsening the crisis, experts warned in a World Trade Organization (WTO) seminar today (April 26, 2022).

Presenting a grim picture for many countries, several speakers urged governments to keep trade flowing, not to take short term measures that could increase volatility and not to turn inward.

That was among several messages heard in the seminar, with a number of implications for WTO members and their efforts to modernise the rules of international agricultural trade.

Below are five takeaways from the seminar. The morning sessions were on the record. Some of the speakers are identified here. The afternoon sessions were under the Chatham House Rule and speakers are not identified.

Continue reading “Five takeaways from the WTO seminar on food security”

WTO farm talks head into 2022 with lots of ‘will’ but not much ‘way’

The fate of the chair’s draft lies in the balance as members declare commitment to the talks but remain as divided as ever

UPDATE
May 19, 2022 informal negotiations meeting: in preparation for the re-scheduled Ministerial Conference: Twitter thread (food security, export restrictions, public stockholding, agriculture negotiations as a whole).

March 21, 2022 negotiations meeting: Twitter thread, WTO news story, chair’s statement on consultations (public stockholding, special safeguard mechanism, agriculture negotiations as a whole, including a proposed session on food security)

May 31, 2022: new draft texts circulated ahead of the June 12–15 re-scheduled Ministerial Conference.

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JANUARY 25, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 8, 2022

WTO agriculture negotiations started the year 2022 with members taking stock of where the talks were and how they might proceed, after a year of hard and intensive work that produced new proposals, but no change in fundamental, deadlocked positions.

The momentum had been created as negotiators strove to present common ground for the Ministerial Conference, scheduled for November 30–December 3, 2021, but postponed because of travel and other restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An informal negotiation meeting on January 24, 2022, cast doubt on the fate of the only attempt to reflect the current state of the talks in a single text, according to a trade official in Geneva — “to be or not to be”, the official said.

Continue reading “WTO farm talks head into 2022 with lots of ‘will’ but not much ‘way’”

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

21 years of talking with little sign of convergence on remaining topics in agriculture

UPDATES
See “WTO farm talks head into 2022 with lots of ‘will’ but not much ‘way’
and May 31, 2022, pre-Ministerial Conference drafts (agriculture decision, food security declaration, and exempting the World Food programme from export restrictions decision)

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED DECEMBER 9, 2021 | UPDATED JUNE 8, 2021

A week bef0re the now-postponed World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference was due to start, WTO agriculture negotiators received a revised draft from Gloria Abraham Peralta, Costa Rica’s ambassador and the talks’ chair.

The new assessment and draft text is still in the form of a proposed decision for the ministers. It was circulated on November 23, 2021. The conference was postponed three days later on November 26. It was due to take place on November 30–December 3.

The new text was slimmed down from the 27 pages of the July 29 text, to 16 pages, still covering eight topics. This was not because gaps between members’ positions had narrowed. Rather, some issues had proved so intractable that the chair had simply thrown out large chunks of text.




[Public stockholding] has turned out to be the most difficult issue in the agriculture negotiations

— Gloria Abraham Peralta

The page-count was also reduced by combining eight separate draft decisions into one single text.

One commentator has slammed the draft for being completely empty.

“It has absolutely nothing in it. Basically, it says: We will negotiate on market access. We will negotiate on export competition. We will negotiate on domestic support. And not much else,” wrote Australian trade lawyer Brett Williams on the International Economic Law and Policy Blog.

That is a bit harsh. WTO members and their chair had worked hard in the previous months.

Continue reading “Pre-ministerial draft shows little to harvest in WTO farm talks”

New agriculture draft suggests nervousness in divided WTO

Never before in 21 years of the WTO agriculture negotiations has a chair’s text been circulated as a secret document

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JULY 30, 2021 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 18, 2021

This has now been revised throughout, based on the actual text

As the World Trade Organization began its 2021 summer break, Gloria Abraham Peralta, Costa Rica’s ambassador and WTO agriculture negotiations chair, circulated her first draft negotiating text, stressing that delegates will need to move quickly to compromise and make a difference to people’s lives.

The 27-page draft, covering eight topics, is designed to focus negotiators’ attentions on what might be agreed at the November 30–December 3 WTO Ministerial Conference, three months after they return in September. It shows members are as divided as ever with little convergence after months of work.

The text is not a public document, but it has been leaked. It was circulated on July 29, 2021 as a restricted document, the first time a chair has done that since the agriculture negotiations began over two decades ago, in 2000.

Continue reading “New agriculture draft suggests nervousness in divided WTO”

UK-Australia trade deal: when a cap on farm goods is not a cap

Once again the British government has over-claimed on the effects of an agreement

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 18, 2021 | UPDATED DECEMBER 17, 2021

“British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards,” declared the UK International Trade Department on June 15, 2021.

But will they, though? The text of the agreement-in-principle between Britain and Australia was published a few days later, also in several formats on the Australian government website.

It was not a final deal. That was eventually signed six months later, on December 16, 2021.

Much of the June agreement-in-principle was in the future tense — agreement between the two “will include” this that and the other. Negotiations continued.

A note at the end of the text, which the Australian government calls a “disclaimer”, says:

DISCLAIMER: This document reflects what the UK and Australian FTA [free trade agreement] negotiating teams have jointly decided as of 16 June 2021 should be included in the FTA once it is finalised. It does not prejudge the outcome of the FTA negotiations or any further proposals for FTA commitments either the UK or Australia may make after this date. It is also not intended to create any treaty obligations.”

But it does show some of what is intended for agricultural products.

Continue reading “UK-Australia trade deal: when a cap on farm goods is not a cap”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the new WTO chief, but let’s not get carried away

The director-general’s powers are limited, so don’t expect miracles. And don’t blame her if problems stay unresolved

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 15, 2021 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 18, 2021

Now that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been confirmed as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) it’s tempting to see light at the end of the tunnel for the troubled negotiating forum and guardian of the resulting agreements.

First woman director-general. First African. Finally, someone at the helm after almost a year effectively without a leader. All those headlined proclamations are true. The excitement is justified, to some extent.

Continue reading “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the new WTO chief, but let’s not get carried away”

WTO agriculture talks 2021: where ambition and cynicism collide

Prospects and developments in the WTO agriculture negotiations in 2021

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 4, 2021 | UPDATED JULY 29, 2021

A strange atmosphere surrounds the agriculture talks in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which resumed on Friday February 5, 2021 and continued through to July, as members to submitted numerous new proposals on a wide range of issues. Consensus stays blocked, even on subjects that ought to be simple.

Continue reading “WTO agriculture talks 2021: where ambition and cynicism collide”