Progress in agriculture negotiations dependent on sensitive products

Geneva - 17 March 2008

Negotiations in Agriculture have progressed significantly in recent weeks especially after the revised text issued by the Chair (8th February 2008). Members have extensively discussed the revised text in various Room E meetings and expressed their concerns on some areas which are still unresolved. The major unresolved areas are Sensitive Products, Tropical and Alternative Products, Tariff Escalation and Preference Erosion. The other issues, even though the difference of positions still prevails, have structure in place.

The Sensitive Products issue is stalled over the approach to be used in expanding the Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs). Cairns group and majority of other exporters want a domestic consumption base at product level (HS 4 or 6 digit level) while the importers (mainly EC and G-10) are stressing upon partial designation approach (taking the domestic consumption base down to HS 8 or 10 digits). A small group called as “Friends of Chair” (mainly EC, G-10, Australia, Brazil and Argentina) is working on finding a mutually agreeable solution to this problem. The major importers, called as data-6, have shared the domestic consumption data and the exporters are working with them to find an acceptable base level.

The Chair of COA-SS has given time to the group (friends of Chair) until 31st March 2008 and after that, in any case, the Room E meeting would start for having another run on all of the issues including sensitive products. The Chair may issue a revised text in first week of April 2008, based on the progress thus far. The text will then be taken to the horizontal process leading to a possible Ministerial level meeting (expected in early May 2008).