Special and Differential Treatment in the WTO Agriculture Negotiations: A Joint FAO-ICTSD Informal Expert Consultation

28 September 2004 to 29 September 2004
Geneva, Switzerland

On 1st August 2004, WTO Members adopted the General Council Decision on the Doha Work Programme. Annex A of this Decision sets out a framework constituting the basis for the crafting of full modalities during the next phase of negotiations. The Annex recognises that the modalities to be developed will need to incorporate operationally effective and meaningful provisions for special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing country Members. The challenge before Members now is to translate the broadly structured, sometimes vague provisions providing for special and differential treatment into concrete modalities and well-crafted provisions that will enable them to “pursue agricultural policies that are supportive of their development goals, poverty-reduction strategies, food-security and livelihood concerns.”

This joint FAO-ICTSD Consultation presented a timely opportunity to discuss the key issues, factors and methods enabling developing countries to build on the elements of S&DT contained in the General Council Decision, translate them into concrete modalities, and phrase them effectively and meaningfully within the WTO context.

More specifically, the Consultation sought to:

1. Address and analyse key issues in the area of Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) and agriculture;

2. Assess whether the S&DT provisions under each pillar, namely market-access, domestic support and export competition, provided for in Annex A, would enable developing countries to ‘sufficiently’ address their non-trade and other concerns, and to what extent;

3. Set out the criteria that might be developed for promoting context specific S&DT in agriculture;

4. Explore the possible additional options for developing countries to mitigate their key concerns on S&DT within the context of the current WTO negotiations on agriculture; and finally,

5. Ask what can experts offer to negotiators and the on-going negotiations by way of clarification?

The Consultation sought to clarify existing analysis related to S&DT and generate constructive and policy-oriented ideas through a discussion amongst experts. It comprised four sessions spread over two days. Each session was introduced by selected participants presenting their analysis on each of the pillars relevant to agriculture negotiations, namely market-access, domestic-support and export competition. This was followed by two or more short expert commentaries on each of the presentations and an interactive discussion on the relevant issues under each pillar outlined in the agenda. The consultation was concluded by a two-hour final integration and wrap-up session.

Over the past three months, FAO has organised four consultations, on both cross-cutting (tariff cutting formulae and domestic support measures) and commodity-specific (cotton and sugar) issues, to review and assess the existing technical information, including recent relevant studies and findings. The aim of these consultations is to facilitate the negotiations and reform process through a better understanding of some of the technical issues involved. This was the fifth consultation in the current series. It is also in keeping with the objective of earlier dialogues organised by ICTSD, including on the issues of agriculture and special and differential treatment, to assist the negotiating process through a better understanding of relevant issues at the interface of agriculture, trade and sustainable development.