AGRICULTURE

The WTO’s Agriculture Agreement was negotiated in the 1986–1994 Uruguay Round and is a significant first step towards fairer competition and a less distorted sector. WTO member governments agreed to improve market access and reduce trade-distorting subsidies in agriculture. In general, these commitments were phased in over a six years from 1995 (10 years for developing countries). The Agriculture Committee oversees the agreement’s implementation.

Meanwhile, members also agreed to continue the reform. Further talks, which are separate from the committee’s regular work, began in 2000. They were included in the broader negotiating agenda set at the 2001 Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar.

In a nutshell: how to follow current issues in agriculture

Agriculture is a sector that members have agreed to reform: it is distorted by subsidies and high trade barriers, affecting access to food, fibres for clothing and other materials, and the livelihoods of farmers around the world.

In the WTO it excludes forestry and fisheries products, but includes a number of processed foods and drinks.

The first major reform was the result of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round negotiations, which produced the present Agriculture Agreement. In it, governments started to close agricultural loopholes in WTO agreements by binding and cutting tariffs, removing import bans or restrictions, and cutting subsidies that distort trade, both in domestic markets and on exports. Poorer countries are allowed more lenient terms, and least developed countries have not made any reduction commitments.

An important area of work in the WTO is monitoring how governments are implementing their obligations under the agreement and discussing issues that arise, in the regular Agriculture Committee.

Negotiations since 2000 — brought into the Doha Development Agenda in 2001 — aim to continue the reform.

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