Negotiating Liberalization of Trade in Agriculture for Development

As the focal point of the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and interrelated issues, the UNCTAD secretariat supports developing member States, including the least developed member States, and member States with economies in transition in achieving their beneficial and fuller integration into the international trade and world economy for sustainable development.

Through intergovernmental deliberations and consensus-building, research and analysis, and capacity-building technical assistance, UNCTAD’s work on trade negotiations and commercial diplomacy aims at enhancing the human and institutional capacities of these member States to analyse, formulate and implement appropriate policies and strategies in bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations to assure development gains from international trade, the trading system and trade negotiations.

The purpose of this publication is to assist trade policy makers and trade negotiators in considering their decisions regarding agriculture in pursuing national development objectives. It could also be useful for other stakeholders involved or interested in agricultural negotiations and policies, including the private sector, researchers and non-governmental organizations.

The publication seeks to do so by providing a balanced, objective and sound analysis of the technical and policy issues about the rules and negotiations on trade in agriculture and explore possible ways to address the above-mentioned challenge.

It provides an overview of the pattern of agricultural trade, salient features of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) in the World Trade Organization (WTO), implementation of commitments and status of current negotiations in various areas with an emphasis on the development dimension of the agriculture rules and negotiations.

Three key pillars of trade in agriculture, namely market access, domestic support and export competition, are discussed with an emphasis on the impact of potential policy changes on development.

Moreover, this publication covers negotiating issues of stake specific to developing countries and the least developed countries, such as “special and differential treatment” (SDT) for developing and least developed countries, cotton initiative, public stock-holding, special safeguard mechanism and export restrictions. Options on some key subjects in the agricultural negotiations were also explored.

The rationale for subjecting market access, domestic support and export subsidies to GATT disciplines was explained in an appendix and a brief overview of main features of agriculture in the context of regional trade agreements (RTAs) is provided in another appendix.