Ambassador Alparslan Acarsoy of Turkey, Chair of the agriculture negotiations at the WTO, provided an update to WTO members on October 2-3 regarding the status of agriculture negotiations and outlined plans to advance these discussions. The International Trade Council takes note of these developments, which are crucial in shaping the path towards the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024.
The Chair's report highlighted the diverse views among members on the shape of a potential agriculture outcome at MC13. While many members prioritized reducing trade-distorting domestic support to enhance food security, others emphasized topics with immediate effects, such as transparency in export restrictions to mitigate price volatility.
The Chair also discussed the progress achieved in talks, including facilitating discussions between the African Group and Costa Rica on reductions in domestic support. The Chair intends to extend these discussions to other negotiation topics based on members' submissions, potentially including export restrictions, market access, cotton, and export competition.
Australia, representing the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries, presented upcoming submissions regarding support categorized as "green box" under WTO rules. This support is allowed without limit under WTO rules, and Australia's contribution to the discussion is noted.
Discussions also addressed the procurement of food at minimum prices for public stocks, which is essential for food security in developing countries. The Chair acknowledged divergent positions among members and discussions on fast-tracking an outcome in this area.
In a separate discussion, members disagreed on whether the proposed new "special safeguard mechanism" should be part of broader agricultural market access talks or treated as a standalone issue.
Many delegates emphasized the importance of senior officials providing political guidance to overcome negotiation challenges. Some members called for a strong political signal at MC13 regarding the need to address food insecurity.
The International Trade Council acknowledges the ongoing efforts within the WTO agriculture negotiations and emphasizes the importance of addressing food security challenges. The forthcoming senior officials meeting and MC13 will play significant roles in shaping the future of these negotiations.
The Chair highlighted the urgency of achieving concrete outcomes in the negotiations, emphasizing the need for progress.
In conclusion, the International Trade Council takes note of the progress and challenges in the WTO agriculture negotiations and looks forward to further developments in this important area of international trade.