Taking a Step Towards Modernizing Agriculture Trade Policy


Twenty-eight years after agriculture was brought into the rules-based multilateral trading system, and twenty-two years after negotiations to liberalize trade in agriculture were re-launched at the WTO, too little progress has been made. 

Unless WTO members put away their well-worn talking points and adopt a fresh approach to modernizing the rules for agriculture trade, the future risks looking much like the past: largely ineffective policies that impose unnecessarily high costs on resource-poor farm families and less well-off consumers and give inadequate attention to the 
real challenges confronting the sector today – building global food security, enabling livelihoods along the food supply chain, increasing agriculture productivity, sustaining land, water and biodiversity resources, addressing climate change, and strengthening the resilience of global food systems. This policy brief offers one way forward on two essential elements of the stalled agriculture negotiations: domestic support and public stockholding.1

Where are multilateral negotiations at today? 

In a report to the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on 23 November 2021, the  Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session noted the following:

The Domestic Support pillar has been at the heart of the agricultural negotiations since their commencement in 2000. Numerous submissions have been made  on this subject by Members emphasizing the shared objective of addressing trade-distorting domestic support (TDDS). It is also the pillar of the negotiations that has been discussed the most…and is the area where the expectations for an outcome at MC12 have been the highest. Indeed, the two topics that are together seen as likely to set the overall level of ambition for an agricultural package at MC12 are domestic support and public stockholding. 


Ken Ash is an Independent Consultant, IIT Visiting Fellow, and former OECD Director of Trade and Agriculture.
Carmel Cahill is an Independent Consultant and former OECD Deputy Director of Trade and Agriculture.

The views expressed here are the author’s, and may not necessarily represent the views of the Institute for International Trade.


Photo: Unsplash. Megan Thomas 

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