First Round on Agriculture ‘Templates’ Completed

by 5m Editor
7 October 2009, at 3:37pm

GLOBAL - World Trade Organisation farm talks’ chairperson David Walker described as “a good start” two days of technical discussion on the blank forms members will use for making commitments on agriculture — and the accompanying data that will be needed — which ended on 1 October 2009.

Negotiators will now examine various ideas that have been proposed, and the talks’ chairperson urged them to supply comments in writing before they next meet in the week of 12 October.

At the end of meetings on Friday 25 September and Thursday 1 October 2009, the chairperson, who is also New Zealand’s ambassador to the WTO, told members they now have a good basis to work on.

Ambassador Walker also briefed delegations on consultations he has been holding on some of the substance of the talks but added that so far there has been no significant movement.

He said he had been consulting on domestic support for cotton and “bracketed Blue Box headroom” — proposed provisions that would allow the US to provide “Blue Box” support per product up to a limit of 10 per cent or 20 per cent above estimates of maximum support provided under the 2002 US Farm Bill (see fact sheet and explanation of the latest proposals).

The technical work is on organizing the data necessary to calculate commitments (explained in more detail below and in the “at a glance” box on the right). These electronic forms or tables will be used to present base data — data to be used as the starting point for calculating commitments — in a way that is transparent and verifiable. Eventually they will be used to design “templates” for how the commitments will be presented.

Agriculture negotiators now have two sets of papers to consider, roughly corresponding to two parts of the first of two steps proposed in an earlier unofficial document from Uruguay, and following the draft “modalities” text of December 2008:

  • Step 1: considering what “base data” are needed under the present draft “modalities” — what is already available, what will need to be “constructed”, and whether the draft “modalities” says how this should be done. This step would also include the question of whether supporting tables — tables displaying the data and how they are derived — are needed and what their format would be. Papers from the Cairns Group or from group members Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Thailand examine the data needs in each of the three pillars of export competition, domestic support and market access. US papers examine the question of supporting tables and their format.

  • Step 2: developed from step 1, designing “templates” or blank forms to be used for the commitments resulting from the Doha Round negotiations, and for any supporting data required. Parts of the data could be presented before, during or after “modalities” have been agreed.

The chairman David Walker referred to an eventual step 3: filling in the numbers.

The delegations that spoke broadly welcomed the contributions.