On Thursday 27 November 2014 last, the WTO General Council approved three decisions related to public stockholding for food security purposes, the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the post-Bali work programme. With these agreements the hiatus in the WTO’s post-Bali work caused by India’s position on the 2013 Bali Ministerial Council decisions has been unblocked. India had demanded a commitment to faster progress on finding a permanent solution to the treatment of official procurement prices for food security stocks under domestic support disciplines, as well as the copper-fastening of the terms of the interim peace clause, in return for its willingness to approve the Protocol of Amendment to allow the Trade Facilitation Agreement to come into effect.
On Thursday this week, the WTO Director-General Robert Azevêdo admitted to failure in concluding the negotiations to adopt the Protocol of Amendment on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by 31 July as had been agreed by Ministers at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali last December. The Protocol of Amendment was intended to start the process to formally insert the trade facilitation deal into the overall WTO Agreement.
The TFA was part of a carefully-balanced package at Bali designed to get substantive negotiations on the Doha Round again underway. In addition to a series of decisions and declarations on trade facilitation, agriculture, cotton, development and least developed country (LDC) issues, the Ministerial Conference had set a deadline of the end of 2014 for the Trade Negotiations Committee to develop a clearly-defined work programme on the remaining Doha Round issues.
The new WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo gave a rather downbeat assessment last week to the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on the state of play of the texts which are meant to be agreed at the Bali Ministerial Council in early December. In an earlier post I discussed the issues put on the table by developing countries to make up the agricultural element of this Bali ‘mini-package’. These include new rules to deal with underfill of tariff rate quotas, a halving by developed countries of their ceilings on allowed export subsidies, and an exemption for developing countries from regular WTO disciplines on purchases of food products from low-income farmers at government-set prices when used for public stock-holding.
Some weeks ago I discussed the prospects for a Doha Round mini-package at the next WTO Ministerial Council meeting in Bali in December, and I explained the proposals making up the agricultural elements of that mini-package. A recent paper produced jointly by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also provides a useful introduction to the agricultural issues at stake in the Bali talks.
Since then, the Chair of the agricultural negotiations has provided a status update on the progress towards agreement on this mini-package. It makes for tortuous reading as the negotiators get into mind-numbing detail on aspects of the proposals.
In the previous post, I discussed the process leading up to the forthcoming Bali Ministerial Conference of the WTO and the prospects for progress on a Doha Round ‘mini-package’. This ‘mini-package’ is planned to consist of three components: trade facilitation, some development/LDC issues and some agricultural elements (with the possibility of including other elements such as the dispute settlement review and the Information Technology Agreement if progress allows). In this post I discuss the issues being negotiated as part of the agricultural strand of this package.
The agricultural consultations have focused around three proposals tabled so far:
• a G-20 non paper which proposes an understanding on tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration provisions.
With Brussels and national capitals closed for the month of August so little happening on the CAP front, it is timely for a stock-taking of the state of play in the multilateral trade negotiations.
In December later this year, the WTO at its 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia will make yet another effort to salvage some concrete deliverables from the tortuous Doha Round negotiations. The negotiations have proceeded in fits and starts, but with more fits than starts, since the cancellation of what should have been the 7th Ministerial Conference (MC) in Geneva in December 2008 following the failure to agree on revised modalities documents.