World Trade Organization (WTO) members continue exchanging views on various issues in the agriculture negotiations and the possible options for a positive outcome through written communications while WTO meetings are suspended in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In other WTO news, on Friday, the European Union and 15 other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) struck an interim agreement to allow them to bring appeals and resolve trade disputes among themselves. WTO's appellate body stopped functioning in December 2019. The move essentially isolates the United States, which had blocked the selection of judges to the WTO appellate body and had not agreed to reform proposals.
In a communication dated in mid-March, the chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador John Deep Ford (Guyana), invited WTO members to make the best possible use of their time despite the unforeseen circumstances resulting from the pandemic.
The chair shared an updated assessment of the possible options in the agriculture negotiations, building upon his report on the “Elements and processes for a possible outcome in agriculture at MC12” circulated on February 14, 2020 and subsequent consultations held with members. He urged members to table new submissions and asked them to express in writing their views on his assessment as well as on all new submissions by April 15, 2020. All the views expressed will be compiled and circulated to members, constituting inputs for future talks.
The chair acknowledged that the negotiation process was even more challenging in this unprecedented environment. The situation would need to be reassessed once there is more clarity regarding the work schedule of the WTO and the new dates for the 12th Ministerial Conference, he added.
The chair said that “with determination and flexibility, members will be able to make progress and take a step forward in achieving our collective goal towards establishing a fair and market oriented agricultural trading system, enabling it to effectively address the challenges facing it and to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals”.