The Agreement on Agriculture, entered into by WTO Member Countries in 1995, would be coming up for review at the end of this year. The full text of the Agreement is available on website address www.wto.org/ wto/legal/finalact.htm. Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) points the way to further negotiations on agriculture. As a run up to the same, the WTO Committee on Agriculture has instituted a process of analysis and information exchange wherein informal papers are presented by various member countries highlighting implementation problems as well as areas of the agreement which need amendment, modification and further clarity.
While Article 20 mandates further negotiations, there is neither a fixed agenda nor a timetable for the same, which could probably mean that this process would simply be the beginning which could last for some years. These negotiations may cover several issues depending upon the position of different groups of countries.
The Agreement on Agriculture contains provisions in following three broad areas of agriculture and trade policy:
a) Market access envisages tariffication of all non-tariff barriers (that is removal of quantitative restrictions and export and import licensing).
b) Domestic support measures or subsidies are disciplined through reduction in the total Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) and area of export subsidies is also a trade concern for India as these measures affect the export of developing countries, rendering them uncompetitive when compared to subsidised exports of the developed countries. Further, they also result in distorting the world prices of agricultural commodities and thereby adversely affecting those developing countries which are net importers of foodgrains.
The Uruguay Round and the subsequent negotiations in services had not yielded significant returns to the developing countries, particularly in regard to market access in terms of movement of natural persons and hence, there was need to remove the existing imbalances in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) taking into account the interests of developing countries.