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AGRICULTURE: NEGOTIATIONS

Chairperson’s texts 2007

Updated: 4 January 2008

On 17 July 2007, Ambassador Crawford Falconer, chairperson of the agriculture negotiations, circulated his 45-page revised draft “modalities” containing formulas for cutting tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies, and related provisions. The draft is based on WTO member governments’ latest positions in the negotiations and is an assessment of what might be agreed. Its release kicks off another intensive series of meetings for members to try to reach agreement, and probably to amend the draft. (See explanation below).

This followed two “challenges” papers circulated in April and May, containing his ideas on where members’ positions might converge.

(The 17 July release was coordinated with Ambassador Don Stephenson, chairperson of the non-agricultural market access negotiations, who also circulated his revised draft “modalities” paper).

Original mandate: Article 20
 > The Doha mandate
The Doha mandate explained


 See also:
Negotiations gateway
2004 agreed framework
2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration
> More on the modalities phase

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The papers
Browse or download:

 

> Chairperson’s working documents November 2007–January 2008
 

> Revised draft modalities,
Corrected version, 1 August. Browse: html.  > Download, 47 pages: Word 541KB; pdf 228KB
(Earlier version, 17 July 2007. Download, 45 pages: Word 476KB; pdf 169KB)
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text    > help
 

Second set of ‘challenges’ circulated for farm talks,
25 May 2007. Browse: html.  > Download, 15 pages: Word 100KB; pdf 78KB
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text  (29 May 2007)   > help

 

Agriculture chair circulates ‘challenges’ paper,
30 April 2007. Browse: html.  > Download, 28 pages: Word 191KB; pdf 124KB
Listen to the press conference following the release of this text (7 May 2007)  > help

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Explanation
The 17 July 2007 revised draft modalities

What is this paper? This is NOT a “proposal” from the New Zealand ambassador (or from “the WTO”) in the sense that we would normally understand the word “proposal”. In other words, it is NOT his opinion of what would be “good” for world agricultural trade.

Rather, it is an assessment drawn from WTO member governments’ positions. It is the negotiations’ chairperson’s judgement of what they might be able to agree — based on what they have proposed and debated in over seven years of negotiations and their responses to his previous papers. He has stressed that this is not final. It puts the possible areas of agreement on paper so that members can react and further revise the draft. So this paper kicks off another intensive series of meetings and comment.

What are “modalities”? “Modalities” are ways or methods of doing something. Here, the ultimate objective is for member governments to cut tariffs and subsidies and to make these binding commitments in the WTO. The “modalities” will tell them how to do it, but first the “modalities” have to be agreed.

With 150 members and thousands of products, the simplest way to do this is to agree on formulas for making the cuts. These formulas are at the heart of the “modalities”. Once they have been agreed, governments can apply the formulas to their tariffs and subsidies to set new ceiling commitments.

However in order to agree to the formulas, members want a number of other concerns to be part of the deal. These include flexibility to allow some deviation from the formulas, tighter disciplines to ensure loopholes are plugged and trade-distorting subsidies are not camouflaged in permitted policies, and different treatment for developing countries and some other groups of members.

The result is a document that is considerably more complicated than formulas alone. But the aim is still to strike a deal that enables governments to open their markets and reduce trade-distorting subsidies. These new commitments are to be listed in documents called “schedules” of commitments.


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Earlier texts

  

The first draft of the modalities paper was circulated on 22 June 2006. This reflected work on a series of “reference papers”, which Ambassador Falconer circulated in April–June 2006.

  

A previous draft was circulated by the then chairperson Stuart Harbinson in March 2003 and modified slightly in a 7 July 2003 report to the Trade Negotiations Committee.