Agriculture in the WTO: Policy Commitments Made Under the Agreement on Agriculture
CRS Report for Congress
Agriculture in the WTO: Policy Commitments
Made Under the Agreement on Agriculture
May 12, 2005
Specialist in Agricultural Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Agriculture in the WTO: Policy Commitments
Made Under the Agreement on Agriculture
The Uruguay Round (UR) of multilateral trade negotiations, completed in 1994,
represented the first significant step toward reforming international agricultural trade.
Under the UR negotiations, domestic policies and trade policies were viewed as
interconnected. As a result, WTO member countries committed to disciplines in
agricultural support in three broad areas — domestic agricultural support programs,
export subsidies, and market access — often referred to as the three pillars of the
Agreement on Agriculture (AA). In addition, members also agreed to provisions
concerning the handling of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, dispute settlement
procedures, and the continuation of the reform process.
Under the auspices of the UR’s AA, WTO member countries agreed to limit and
reduce the most distortive domestic support subsidies — referred to as amber box
subsidies and measured by the Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS) index. Several
types of indirect subsidies were identified as causing minimal distortion to
agricultural production and trade, and were provided exemptions — green box, blue
box, de minimis, and special treatment — from WTO disciplines. Export subsidies
were capped and subject to reductions in both value and volume. In addition,
members agreed to improve market access for internationally traded agricultural
products by converting non-tariff trade barriers (NTBs) into tariffs (a process called
tariffication); binding existing tariffs at January 1, 1995, levels; and reducing tariffs
from bound levels with the all-product average tariff being reduced faster than tariffs
for individual products. These subsidy and tariff reductions occurred during a
six-year implementation period, 1995-2000. Those countries that had used NTBs to
restrict imports submitted to a form of tariffication that included quotas and special
safeguards offering extra protection from surges in imports for politically sensitive
products. Each country’s specific commitments are listed in its schedule of
The AA also recognized the special needs of developing and least-developed
countries and provided them with greater flexibility in implementing their policy
commitments — referred to as Special and Differential Treatment. In general, the
rates of reduction applied to tariffs and subsidies for developing countries were lower
than the rates used by developed countries. In addition, their reduction commitments
were implemented over an extended period of time, generally a 10-year period (1994-
2004). Least-developed countries (as defined by the United Nations) were exempt
from all reduction commitments, but were required to bind tariffs and domestic
support at base-year levels.
To provide for monitoring and compliance of WTO policy commitments, each
WTO member country was expected to routinely submit notification reports on the
implementation of its various commitments. The WTO’s Committee on Agriculture
was assigned the duty of reviewing progress in the implementation of individual
member commitments based on member notifications.
This report will be updated as events warrant.
In troduction ......................................................1
Background on the Uruguay Round................................2
The World Trade Organization (WTO).............................2
Agreement on Agriculture...........................................3
Policy Tradeoff: Subsidies vs. Market Access........................3
Special Status of Certain Countries................................5
Least-Developed Countries (LDCs)............................5
Net Food Importing Countries................................6
Agricultural Support Commitments....................................6
Domestic Support Subject to Reduction Commitments............6
Domestic Support Exempt from Reduction Commitments..........8
Domestic Subsidy Issues....................................8
Types of Export Subsidies..................................10
Export Subsidy Commitments...............................10
Export Subsidy Issues.....................................11
Committee on Market Access...............................12
Tariff Bindings and Reductions..............................13
Special Safeguards (SSGs).................................13
Tariff-Rate Quotas (TRQs).................................14
Special and Differential Treatment (SDT)......................14
Market Access Issues......................................15
Review of the Implementation of Commitments.........................21
Committee on Agriculture......................................21
Trade Policy Review..........................................25
Special Provisions of the AA........................................26
Related Agreements in the Final Act..................................26
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.........................26
Consultation and Dispute Settlement..........................27
List of Tables
Table 1. Numerical Targets for Cutting Subsidies and Protection............7
Table 2. WTO Subsidy Reduction Commitments and Provisions for TRQs
and SSGs in Country Schedules, by Member.......................18
Table 3. Product Category by Harmonized System Nomenclature...........20
Table 4. List of WTO Member Notification Requirements under the
Agreement on Agriculture......................................22
Table 5. Frequency of Trade Policy Review for WTO Members............25
Also see the following related CRS reports:
CRS Report RS20840, Agriculture in the WTO: Limits on Domestic Spending, by
CRS Report RS20858, Agricultural Export Subsidies, Export Credit, and the World
Trade Organization, by Carol Canada and Charles Hanrahan.
CRS Report RS21905, Agriculture in the WTO Doha Round: The Framework
Agreement and Next Steps, by Charles Hanrahan.
CRS Report RL30612, Agriculture in the WTO: Member Spending on Domestic
Support, by Randy Schnepf.
CRS Report RL32645, The Doha Development Agenda: The WTO Framework
Agreement, by Ian F. Fergusson, Charles E. Hanrahan, William H. Cooper, and
Danielle J. Langton.
CRS Report RS21569, Geographical Indications and WTO Negotiations, by Charles
Agriculture in the WTO:
Policy Commitments Made Under
the Agreement on Agriculture
This report provides a review of the major agricultural policy commitments
made by members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the Uruguay
Round of multilateral trade negotiations completed in 1994, and the legal text that
underlies those commitments. Most agricultural support commitments are embodied
in the Agreement on Agriculture and it is the essential focus of this review.
However, references are made to additional supporting legal texts that emerged as
part of the Uruguay Round Agreement, as well as to related studies and references
produced by the WTO, its member countries, and international organizations
interested in trade and development.
A review of the major agricultural policy commitments made during the
Uruguay Round is useful because:
!a more thorough understanding of WTO policy commitments
provides a better context for evaluating their current implementation
!agriculture-related dispute settlement cases undertaken within the
framework of the WTO frequently hinge on charges of non-
compliance with commitments made by a member country during
the Uruguay Round;
!the ongoing Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations — called
the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) — seeks to build on existing
commitments made during the Uruguay Round;2 and
!sufficient time has elapsed since the completion of the Uruguay
Round that legislators and their staff responsible for oversight of
U.S. trade policy may find such a reference useful when seeking
information on WTO agricultural support commitments.
Given the decade that has elapsed since the completion of the Uruguay Round,
a considerable body of evidence has accumulated with respect to the success of WTO
1 For example, see CRS Report RL30612, Agriculture in the WTO: Member Spending on
Domestic Support, by Randy Schnepf; or CRS Report RS20858, Agricultural Export
Subsidies, Export Credit, and the World Trade Organization, by Carol Canada and Charles
2 For more information, see CRS Report RS21905, Agriculture in the WTO Doha Round:
The Framework Agreement and Next Steps, by Charles Hanrahan.
policy disciplines and agricultural trade rules in improving the predictability,
transparency, and market-orientation of international agricultural trade. In light of
this experience, this report introduces several of the major negotiating issues that
have emerged for each of the various policy commitments made under the auspices
of the Agreement on Agriculture.
Background on the Uruguay Round
From 1948 through 1994, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
provided the most widely accepted set of rules governing international trade.
Although the rules of trade established under GATT also applied to agriculture, they
contained several loopholes, exceptions, and exemptions from most of the disciplines
that applied to manufactured goods.3 For example, while export subsidies were not
allowed for most industrial products, they were permitted on agricultural products.
In addition, GATT allowed the use of import quotas as well as subsidies on domestic
production for agricultural products. As a result, agricultural trade was highly
distorted, and lacked in transparency and fairness. These problems were specifically
addressed during the Uruguay Round (1986-1994) of GATT multilateral trade
negotiations in the Agreement on Agriculture.
The World Trade Organization (WTO)
The Uruguay Round culminated in 1994 when 125 countries signed the Final
Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations
(hereafter referred to as the Final Act)4 establishing the WTO and subsuming the5
GATT. Built on GATT rules, the WTO replaced the GATT as the world’s principal
institutional framework for overseeing trade negotiations and for adjudicating trade
disputes. As of April 2005, there were 148 members in the WTO, representing over
95% of world trade.6 In addition, there were 31 observer governments (most of
which had applied for membership in the WTO) and seven international organization
The Uruguay Round negotiations produced general rules regarding subsidy
disciplines and market access concessions that applied to all members. However,
each individual member country also negotiated their own specific policy
commitments. The list of commitments, along with their implementation period,
were spelled out for each individual country in their “schedule of concessions” (also
3 WTO, Understanding the WTO: the Agreements, “Agriculture: Fairer Markets for
Farmers,” at [http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/agrm3_e.htm].
4 For the official text of the Final Act see, The Legal Texts: The Results of the Uruguay
Round Multilateral Trade Negotiations, Cambridge University Press, ©World Trade
Organization 1999; hereafter referred to as The Legal Texts (1999). The Final Act is also
available at [http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/legal_e.htm#finalact].
5 For background information on the Uruguay Round and the WTO, see CRS Report 98-
6 For a current list of WTO members, see WTO, Understanding the WTO, “Members and
Observers,” at [http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/org6_e.htm].
referred to as the country schedule).7 New members may join the WTO through a
formal process of accession negotiations.8 During accession negotiations, new
members must also negotiate their specific policy commitments as detailed in a
“schedule of concessions.”
Agreement on Agriculture
The Agreement on Agriculture (AA) — the first multilateral agreement
dedicated entirely to agriculture — was one of 29 individual legal texts included
under an umbrella agreement establishing the WTO.9 The stated objective of the AA
was to reform trade in the agricultural sector and to make member-country policies
more market-oriented in order to improve predictability and security for importing
and exporting countries alike.
Policy Tradeoff: Subsidies vs. Market Access
During the Uruguay Round negotiations, domestic and trade policies were
viewed as interconnected — policies which supported domestic prices or subsidized
production tended to encourage over-production; this in turn squeezed out imports
or led to either export subsidies or low-priced dumping on world markets.
Furthermore, to support artificially high domestic prices, border controls such as
restrictive import quotas, excessively high tariffs, and other non-tariff measures were
often used to keep out lower-priced foreign supplies. As a result, for a new trade
agreement to be reached, trade negotiators felt that individual countries had to be
willing to trade off some aspects of domestic policy in favor of facilitating greater
openness in world markets.
In the final outcome of the Uruguay Round, such a trade-off in agriculture
involved commitments by member countries to improve market access on the one
hand, while limiting and reducing trade-distorting subsidies on the other hand. The
disciplines involved freezing protection and subsidies at base period levels, then
instituting annual reductions from the bound levels. A general framework for
implementing these disciplines was developed during the Uruguay Round. A
description of the disciplines and commitments — e.g., tariffication, tariff-rate
quotas, special safeguards, subsidy and tariff reductions, special treatment,
implementation period, and any special provisions — are provided below in the
chapter entitled “Agricultural Support Commitments.”
7 Each WTO member country’s “schedule of concessions,” is available at [http://www.wto.
org/ english/tratop_e/schedules_e/goods_schedules_e.htm] .
8 For more information see WTO, Understanding the WTO, “How to join the WTO: the
accession process,” at [http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/org3_e.htm].
9 For the official text of the AA and other major legal texts, see The Legal Texts (1999). The
AA is also available at [http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/legal_e.htm#ag].
At the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, each WTO member country listed its
commitments on market access and subsidy reductions in a document called a
Schedule of Concessions (or country schedule).10 All of the country schedules were
annexed to the GATT agreement and were approved as part of the Uruguay Round
negotiations. Members that have joined since January 1, 1995, also must list their
policy commitments (which are negotiated during their accession process) in a
Schedule of Concessions. For each WTO member, the country schedule is the
official schedule of all policy commitments. Ratification of the AA by all WTO
member countries was equivalent to ratification of the individual country schedules.11
Similarly, acceding countries must obtain unanimous consent of their country
schedule as part of the accession process.
Although the Uruguay Round negotiations established guidelines for most
policy disciplines, individual member countries are legally committed only to those
provisions included in their Schedule of Concessions, regardless of their
correspondence with the general guidelines. Each country schedule consists of the
following four parts.
Part I. Most-favored nation (MFN) concessions — maximum tariffs on goods
from other WTO members.12 Part I is divided into three major components:
!Section 1A lists tariffs on agricultural products;
!Section 1B lists tariff quotas on agricultural products; and
!Section 2 lists MFN concessions on all other products.
Part II. Preferential concessions — tariffs that benefit countries within the
scope of bilateral or regional trade agreements, e.g,. the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA). Treatment of such preferential trade arrangements is
discussed in GATT, Article 1.
Part III. Concessions on non-tariff measures.
Part IV. Specific commitments on domestic support and export subsidies on
The tariff schedules follow the format called the Harmonized Commodity
Description and Coding System (referred to as the Harmonized System) established13
by the World Customs Organization. The Harmonized System consists of 21
10 Each member country’s schedule of concessions is publicly available at the WTO website
11 USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), Agriculture in the WTO, “Domestic Support
Commitments: A Preliminary Evaluation,” WRS-98-4, December 1998, p. 16.
12 For more information on MFN treatment, see the definition in CRS Report 97-905,
Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms, Programs, and Laws, 4th Edition, by Jasper Womach.
13 For more information on the WCO, visit [http://www.wcoomd.org/ie/index.html]. The
sections covering 99 chapters: most agricultural food and feed products are covered
in Sections I-IV (chapters 1-24); forestry products are in Sections IX-X (chapters 44-
Special Status of Certain Countries
Under the AA (Articles 15 and 16), the special needs of developing and least-
developed countries was recognized by granting them special rights or extra leniency
— termed Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) — in the implementation of
their policy commitments (see Table 1). In general, the rates of reduction applied to
tariffs and subsidies for developing and least-developed countries are lower than the
rates used by developed countries. In addition, their reduction commitments are
implemented over an extended period of time, generally a 10-year period versus a 6-
year period for developed countries.
Least-Developed Countries (LDCs). The WTO recognizes as a least-
developed country (LDC) any of those countries which have been designated as such15
by the United Nations (U.N.). As of April 2005, there were 50 LDCs on the U.N.’s
list, 32 of which were WTO members. Eight additional LDCs are in the process of
accession to the WTO. LDCs are exempt from all reduction commitments, but are
required to bind tariffs and domestic support at base year levels.
Developing Countries. The WTO does not have specific and transparent
criteria to designate a country as “developing” or “developed.” Instead, member
countries are permitted to self-designate. Such designation is significant because
developing countries qualify for the benefits of SDT and, as a result, do not have to
cut their subsidies or lower their tariffs as much as developed countries, plus they are
granted an extended implementation period to meet their commitments.
Many developed countries have questioned the authenticity of several self-
designated “developing” countries, and recommend that a more formal procedure be
established before a country is able to benefit from SDT status. For example, using
World Bank data for the 1992-2003 period, 13 WTO member countries that have
claimed SDT status have average GDP-per-capita levels at or in excess of the World
Bank’s upper-middle income average GDP-per-capita of $4,586 (in constant 1995
U.S. dollars).16 Four of these 13 countries — Barbados, Gabon, St. Kitts & Nevis,
and Trinidad & Tobago — are listed as “net-food-importing developing countries”
WCO’s website contains links to all internationally available country customs
administrations websites at “Customs Web Sites” on its left-hand side bar.
14 For a listing of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, by chapter, see the
U.S. International Trade Commission’s “Tariff Information Center,” at [http://www.usitc.
15 For a listing of LDC member countries, see WTO, Understanding the WTO: The
Organization, “Least-Developed Countries,” available at [http://www.wto.org/english/
16 Based on CRS calculations from World Bank data: World Development Indicators.
by the WTO. The remaining 9 countries — Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile,
Cyprus, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, and Uruguay — have come under some
scrutiny as authentic developing countries.
Net Food Importing Countries. Those developing-country members which
rely on imports for the majority of their food supplies are recognized for special17
monitoring under Article 16 of the AA. The concern is that the reduction of
domestic agricultural support subsidies by developed countries could result in lower
exports and higher international prices, thereby raising the food bill for net-importing
countries with potentially negative effects.
Agricultural Support Commitments
To limit and reduce the amount of distortive subsidies directed to their
agricultural sectors, WTO member countries agreed to disciplines in agricultural
support in three broad areas — domestic agricultural support programs, export
subsidies, and market access — often referred to as the three pillars of the AA. Each
of these pillars is discussed, in turn, below. A general framework for disciplines in
each of these three areas is outlined in Table 1.
Domestic support broadly refers to those agricultural policies that operate within
a country so as to influence internal farm and rural incomes, resource use, production,
and consumption of agricultural products, or the environmental impacts of farming.
Individual WTO member countries reserve the right and may be obligated by their
electorate to use domestic support policies to pursue various national policy
objectives. As a result, the AA distinguishes between support programs that have
a direct effect on agricultural production, and those that are deemed minimally
distorting. The former are referred to as “coupled” programs because of their direct
link to production and are subject to limitations and gradual reduction from historical
base levels. In contrast, most indirect support measures — i.e., those policies which
are minimally trade or production distorting — are exempted from reduction
Domestic Support Subject to Reduction Commitments. Domestic
support deemed to have a “direct effect” on agricultural production is measured by
an index referred to as the Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS).18 The AMS
combines the monetary value of all non-exempt agricultural support into one overall
measure. The AMS includes both budgetary outlays in the form of actual or
17 The WTO list (official document G/AG/5/Rev7) of net food-importing developing
countries includes Barbados, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican
Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Honduras, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia,
Pakistan, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Senegal, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Venezuela.
18 AMS is defined in the AA, Article 1 (a) and (h). Calculation of the AMS is described in
Annex 3 of the AA.
calculated amounts of direct payments to producers under various commodity
marketing loan provisions, input subsidies, and interest subsidies on commodity loan
programs, as well as revenue transfers from consumers to producers as a result of
policies that distort market prices.
In the initial WTO agreement, 26 countries made AMS reduction commitments.
An additional 9 countries that acceded to the WTO after January 1, 1995, have also
made AMS commitments (as of February 17, 2005) bringing the total number of
countries with AMS commitments to 35 (see Table 2).19 For developed member
countries, the AMS was to be reduced from a 1986-1988 base period average by 20%
in six equal annual installments during 1995-2000. Developing countries (i.e., those
self-designated countries receiving SDT benefits) agreed to a 13% reduction from
their 1986-1988 base AMS over a 10-year period (1995-2004). LDCs agreed to not
increase support beyond the base period level.
Table 1. Numerical Targets for Cutting Subsidies and Protection
WTO Member Status
Deve loped Deve loping Least-Deve loped a
Implementation Period b1995-20001995-2004None
Domestic Support Reduction:c
-total AMS -20%-13%Bind
Export Subsidy Reduction:c
-subsidized value-36%-24%See d
-subsidized quantity-21%-14%Article 9.4
-average for all products-36%-24%Bind
-minimum per product-15%-10%Bind
Source: WTO, WTO Agriculture Negotiations, updated December 1, 2004; available at [http://www.
aLDCs are required to bind (freeze) domestic subsidies and tariffs at base year levels.
bFor those countries that acceded to the WTO after January 1, 1995, their implementation period and
reduction rates are specified in their country schedule of commitments.c
The base level for tariff cuts was the bound rate before January 1, 1995; for unbound tariffs, the
actual rate charged in September 1986 (when the Uruguay Round began) was used. The base period
for domestic support (AMS) reductions was 1986-1988. Only the rates for cutting export subsidies
appear in the AA. The other rates were targets used to calculate individual countries’ legally binding
schedules of concessions. Each country’s specific commitments vary according to the outcome of
negotiations and are listed in their respective country schedules. As a result of the negotiations,
several developing countries chose to set fixed bound tariff ceilings that do not decline over the years.d
Article 9.4 of the AA includes temporary exemptions for developing countries, allowing them to
subsidize certain marketing and transport activities.
19 For a status report on the implementation of domestic support commitments by WTO
members, see CRS Report RL30612, Agriculture in the WTO: Member Spending on
Domestic Support, by Randy Schnepf.
Domestic Support Exempt from Reduction Commitments. The AA
defines four categories of domestic support that are eligible for exemption from
reduction commitments. These are green box, blue box, de minimis, and SDT
Green Box. Certain types of domestic subsidies that do not distort trade, or
at most cause minimal distortion while achieving various domestic policy goals.
These types of policies, as identified in Annex 2 of the AA, are exempted from
domestic support disciplines in accordance with Articles 7.1 and 7.2(a). Complying
policies include outlays for such activities as agricultural research and extension,
conservation and the environment, rural development, food security stocks, domestic
food aid (e.g., food stamps), farm disaster payments, and structural adjustment
programs. Also exempted are “decoupled” payments, i.e., payments that are not
linked to current production decisions. These specific exemptions are referred to as
“green” in the traffic-light sense since countries can “go ahead” with these policies
without limit, provided each exempted policy complies fully with its respective
provision in Annex 2.
Blue Box. Any support that would normally be in the amber box is placed in
the blue box if the support also requires agricultural producers to limit production
(Article 6.5). Both crop and livestock production may qualify for this exemption.
There are no limits on blue box spending.
De Minimis Exemptions. Commodity-specific support that is below 5%
(10% for developing countries) of a commodity’s value of production is deemed
sufficiently benign that it does not have to be included in the AMS calculation
(Article 6.4). Such commodity-specific support can be evaluated for each individual
commodity. Similarly, non-product specific support that is below 5% (10% for
developing countries) of the total value of production for all commodities may be
exempted from inclusion in the AMS. For countries that have no AMS reduction
commitment in their schedules, domestic support is limited to their de minimis values
on both a product-specific and total basis for any given year (Article 7.2(b)).
Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) Exemptions. Certain
domestic investment and input subsidies of developing countries and LDCs are
exempt from support reduction commitments (Article 6.2).
Domestic Subsidy Issues. This subsection identifies some of the major
issues concerning domestic support disciplines that have emerged during the first
decade since the completion of the Uruguay Round. Several, if not all, of these
issues are likely to be addressed during the ongoing Doha Round of negotiations.
AMS Disaggregation. Presently, AMS commitments are calculated on an
aggregate basis. Such aggregation allows subsidies to be shifted between products
in such a manner as to disproportionately favor certain commodities. Some WTO
members have argued for disaggregation of AMS ceilings according to products, i.e.,
to set commodity-specific ceilings within the larger AMS aggregate ceiling. It is
argued that such commodity-specific disciplines would further liberalization within
individual commodity markets.
AMS Reduction or Elimination. Now that disciplines have been imposed
on domestic support subsidies, many members are expressing an interest in their
elimination within three to five years for developed countries and nine years for
developing countries. This would bring all countries down to their de minimis levels
as spending ceilings. Since most domestic support spending occurs in just a few
developed countries — particularly in the European Union, the United States, and
Japan which account for over 90% of all amber box spending — this argument is
often made by developing countries who suggest that harmonization of domestic
support at de minimis levels would be the most fair solution. In contrast, those
countries which still depend on domestic support subsidies to achieve domestic
policy goals are reluctant to accept their total elimination.
Amber to Green Box Subsidy Shift. Another emerging issue concerns the
gradual shift of subsidies away from the market-distorting policies of the amber box
towards the “minimally distorting” policies of the green box. Although such subsidy
shifting clearly helps to achieve one of the major objectives of the Uruguay Round
— i.e., reduce market distortion — many developing countries have complained
about the excessive use of green box and other exemptions by developed countries
in the post-Uruguay Round period. As larger volumes of subsidy outlays shift into
the green box, policymakers and trade negotiators will likely feel greater pressure to
differentiate between the degree of market distortion caused by various green-box
exempted policies, and to link disciplines more closely with the degree of market
Limits on Blue Box Spending. Only seven members have notified using
the blue box exemption — the EU, Iceland, Norway, Japan, the Slovak Republic,
Slovenia, and the United States. Of these, the United States is no longer using the
box, but has argued for its retention and would like to qualify counter-cyclical farm
commodity payments for the blue box. Several developed and developing countries
contend that, since blue box policies are not fully decoupled, they should either be
eliminated or moved into the amber box. Presently, blue box spending is not subject
to any limits.
De Minimis Changes. For those countries with no domestic policy
commitments in their country schedule, domestic support subsidies must remain
within their de minimis ceilings. Many developing countries are subject to the de
minimis ceilings. These countries are beginning to suggest that their de minimis
ceilings should be raised to give them greater flexibility in addressing their domestic
poverty and rural development goals. In contrast, many countries have argued that
developed countries with large domestic production (most notably the United States)
are able to avail themselves of high de minimis spending limit exemptions, thereby
avoiding intended disciplines on domestic support.
Export subsidies are special incentives in the form of direct or indirect
compensation provided by governments to commercial firms to encourage increased
foreign sales of domestic products. Direct export subsidies — explicit cash payments
per unit of product exported — are often used when a nation’s domestic price for a
good is artificially raised above the world market price. The AA imposes limits on
direct agricultural export subsidies, but not on indirect export subsidies. Indirect
methods of export subsidization include government subsidized financing for exports
(e.g., export credit guarantees), export promotion and information activities, tax
benefits, or other forms of assistance that may lead to lower than normal costs for
Types of Export Subsidies. Article 9.1 of the AA defines several types of
export subsidies that are subject to limitations and reduction commitments,
!direct export payments by a government to firms, industries, or
producers of agricultural products contingent on export performance;
!sales or gifts of government stocks at prices lower than acquisition
!export payments financed through government action, including
payments financed by levies on producers;
!subsidies to reduce export marketing costs, including handling and
export-specific transportation; and
!subsidies on goods incorporated into export products (Article 11).
Export Subsidy Commitments. In the Uruguay Round, 25 countries agreed
to both volume and value reductions in the use of direct export subsidies from a
!By volume: Developed countries committed to reduce the volume
of subsidized exports by 21% over a six-year period (1995-2000);
developing countries committed to a 14% reduction over a 10-year
!By value: Developed countries committed to reduce the value of
subsidized exports by 36% over six years; developing countries
committed to a 24% reduction over 10 years.
!Flexibility across years: The AA provides some flexibility between
years in terms of subsidy reductions (Article 9.2b). A country was
allowed to exceed its export subsidy commitments in any of the
years two through five (1996-99) provided that the total cumulative
value of export subsidies and the cumulative volume of subsidized
exports through the year in question did not exceed the cumulative
amount that would have resulted under full compliance by more than
Each countries’ schedule specifies both how much can be exported with subsidy
as well as the permitted subsidy expenditure for each listed commodity. A WTO
20 For a status report on the implementation of export subsidy commitments by WTO
members, see CRS Report RS20858, Agricultural Export Subsidies, Export Credit, and the
World Trade Organization, by Carol Canada and Charles Hanrahan. Also see USDA, ERS,
Agriculture in the WTO, “Export Subsidy Commitments: Few are Binding Yet, But Some
Members Try to Evade Them,” WRS-98-4, Dec. 1998, p. 23.
member country may not initiate subsidies for commodities that are not in their
country schedule (Article 8).
Exemptions. Members agreed to exempt bona fide food aid transactions
(Article 10.4) and widely available export market promotion and advisory services
from the list of export subsidies. However, members must restrict their use of
exempted export marketing practices that could cause them to circumvent their
export subsidy commitments (Articles 10.1 and 10.3).
Export Credit Intentions. Finally, members agreed to undertake work
towards the development of internationally agreed disciplines to govern the use of
export credit, export credit guarantees, and insurance programs (Article 10.2).
Export Subsidy Issues. Uruguay Round disciplines have greatly reduced
the value and volume of subsidized exports used in international agricultural markets.
While the complete elimination of direct export subsidies is an obvious goal, several
thorny issues remain surrounding indirect export subsidies.
Export Subsidy Elimination. The European Union alone accounts for
nearly 90% of all direct export subsidies used in the post-Uruguay Round period. As
a result, strong arguments have been made by most WTO members for the complete
elimination of direct export subsidies.
Indirect Export Subsidies. A major concern is the general lack of
transparency or any general agreement on which types of indirect export subsidies are
most distortive and should be subject to disciplines. For example, export credit and
credit guarantees are alleged to contain hidden subsidies in the form of extended
repayment periods and below market interest-rate charges on export credit. Several
members argue that export credit should be offered on strictly commercial terms
defined according to criteria such as duration of the credit (e.g., 180 days),
benchmarks for interest rates (e.g., Libor — the London inter-bank offered rate —
plus some markup), appropriate insurance premiums, etc. Also, export restrictions
such as differential export taxes that favor the export of processed products over the
primary commodity can have the same effect as a subsidy on the export of the
Export STEs. Some WTO members argue that state trading enterprises
(STEs) or state marketing boards should be subject to explicit WTO disciplines
because they: have monopoly power when buying domestic commodities for export,
enjoy government financial guarantees to underwrite their business risk, and do not
operate under commercial objectives. However, there is debate among WTO
members about whether STEs are significantly different from large privately-held,
commercial enterprises. Both often have considerable market power, are able to
practice discriminatory pricing across markets, and can be bailed out of financial
difficulties with government funds. Some members argue that multinational
corporations should also be subject to disciplines. Still a third voice in this debate
is from some developing countries who contend that they need STEs to fill in where
their private sector is still too weak or underdevelped to operate commercially or to
compete against large foreign companies.
Food Aid. While all members agree that food aid for humanitarian purposes
is essential, there is disagreement over how best to ensure that such aid reaches its
intended recipients with minimum harm to local agricultural production and without
unnecessarily pushing out commercial trade from those same markets. Also, several
WTO members contend that, in the past, some countries (most notably the United
States) have used food aid as an outlet for agricultural surpluses.
Market access refers to the extent to which a country permits imports. Within
the WTO, market access refers more specifically to the conditions governing tariff
and non-tariff measures agreed to by members for the entry of specific goods into
their markets. A tariff is a tax imposed on imports by a government. Tariffs may
be either a fixed charge per unit of product imported (called a specific tariff) or a
fixed percentage of the import value (called an ad valorem tariff). A non-tariff
barrier (NTB) is any government measure other than tariffs that restricts trade flows.
NTBs include quantitative import restrictions, variable import levies, discretionary
import licensing, non-tariff measures maintained through state trading enterprises,
voluntary export restraints, and most border measures other than ordinary customs
Use of trade barriers is often justified under three general reasons: to ensure
domestic food security; to protect impoverished or disadvantaged producers; or to
preserve rural society. With these considerations in mind, the Uruguay Round
established disciplines on trade distorting import barriers while maintaining historical
trade volumes and assuring some increased access of agricultural goods into highly
protected markets. The AA also recognized the special needs of developing countries
with rules concerning exceptions and special and differential treatment (SDT) for
market access provisions. These disciplines and provisions are described below.
Committee on Market Access. The WTO General Council established the
Committee on Market Access (January 31, 1995) with a mandate to: supervise,
facilitate, and monitor the implementation of market access concessions; ensure that
country schedules are kept up-to-date; oversee the content and operation of, and
access to, a WTO Integrated Database (of tariff data); and to report periodically (in21
the form of annual public reports) to the WTO Council on Trade in Goods.
The AA (Articles 4 and 5) requires adherence to market access commitments
as identified in each country’s schedule of concessions. Principal among these are
tariff bindings and reduction commitments, as well as tariffication of NTBs. For
those products subject to tariffication (i.e., previously protected by NTBs), special
temporary safeguards were put in place to afford protection from unexpected import
surges. For many of these products, tariff-rate quotas were also established to retain
some vestige of historical protection rates while assuring some increased access to
21 For more information on the committee and its annual reports, see WTO, “Market Access
for Goods: Work of the Committee on Market Access” at [http://www.wto.org/english/
highly protected markets. Each of these market access commitments are briefly
Tariff Bindings and Reductions. WTO members agreed to bind the
maximum tariff rates that may be applied for imported products at base period (1986-
1988) levels. As a result of this discipline, 100% of agricultural products now have
bound tariffs. Member countries are free to apply tariff rates that are below the
bound rate, but may never apply a tariff rate in excess of the bound rate without first
consulting with the other members that are most likely to be affected by such a
change and agreeing on some level of compensation (Article 28 of the GATT).
In addition to the binding of maximum tariff rates, member countries agreed to
reductions in the bound rates. In general, the bound annual average (aggregate) tariff
was to be reduced by 36% in equal installments over a six-year period (1995-2000)
for developed countries; developing countries were given a 10-year period (1995-
2004). Tariffs on individual products were to be reduced by no less than 15% during
these same periods.
Tariffication. Tariffication is the process of converting nontariff trade barriers
(NTBs) to bound tariffs. Tariffication was done under the AA to improve the
transparency of existing agricultural trade barriers and to facilitate their proposed
reductions. Under Article 4.2, all agricultural NTBs were banned. They were
replaced by ordinary tariffs that provided an equivalent level of protection. This was
achieved by setting the new tariff at an amount equal to the difference between
internal and external prices existing in the base period (1986-1988). For example,
if under the previous policy domestic prices were on average about 75% above world
market prices, then the new ad valorem tariff would be set at 75%.
Special Safeguards (SSGs). The AA contains SSG provisions put in place
for those products subject to tariffication (Article 5). An SSG’s purpose is to prevent
disruption of domestic markets due to import surges or abnormally low import prices.
SSGs allow member countries to impose additional tariffs on agricultural products
if their import volume exceeds defined trigger levels, or if import prices fall below
specified trigger levels. The SSG applies only to products that are either (1) subject
to tariffication, or (2) in cases where the country has designated a product as eligible
for the SSG in its country schedule. An SSG can apply only to imports that exceed
tariff-rate quota volumes (see the discussion on tariff-rate quotas below). The SSG
is an alternative to the general safeguard provision of the GATT and is easier to
invoke because it does not require a test of injury or threat of injury.
As of February 11, 2002, there were 39 WTO members that had reserved the
right to use a combined total of 6,156 SSGs on agricultural products in their
commitments (see Tables 2 and 3).22
22 The WTO’s Committee on Agriculture uses member notifications to produce occasional
reports on the implementation of special safeguards. The most recent version of such a
report is WTO, Special Agricultural Safeguard, G/AG/NG/S/9/Rev.1, February 19, 2002.
Tariff-Rate Quotas (TRQs). A quota is a quantitative limit placed on the
importation of a specific commodity. A TRQ is simply a two-tiered tariff: a limited
volume (the quota) can be imported at the lower tariff, and imports in excess of the
quota volume are charged a higher, usually prohibitive, tariff. Under the Uruguay
Round negotiations, the quota component was set equal to historical trade levels to
avoid dramatic disruption of traditional trade patterns. Where trade had been
minimal, an access quota was established at a higher level than the historical average
in order to provide improved access opportunities. As a result, a TRQ allows for
some minimum access, while assuring protection once that level of access has been
TRQ quotas and tariff rates were negotiated on a country- and commodity-
specific basis. As of March 8, 2002, there were 43 WTO members with a combined
total of 1,425 tariff-rate quotas in their commitments (see Tables 2 and 3).23 The
specific quota and tariff rates are listed in the country schedules. In general, TRQ
quota levels were set and were subject to an annual increase based on historical levels
according to the following formula:
!Minimum access: if imports represented less than 5% of domestic
consumption during the base period (1986-88), then the access quota
was initially set equal to 3% of domestic consumption but would
grow to 5% of domestic consumption during the implementation
!Current access: the access quota was to be no less than the base
period (1986-88) level if imports represented more than 5% of
domestic consumption during the base period.
Special and Differential Treatment (SDT). Special treatment provisions
allow certain countries, under certain conditions, to postpone tariffication up to the
end of the implementation period (to 2000 for developed countries, to 2004 for
developing nations) but subject to strictly defined conditions including minimum
access for overseas suppliers. Under the Uruguay Round negotiations, four countries
were granted special treatment provisions: Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines
for rice; and Israel for sheep meat, whole milk powder, and certain cheeses. Japan
and Israel have since given up their “special treatment” rights. However, Chinese
Taipei negotiated for and has received special treatment for rice with its accession to
the WTO on January 1, 2002.
Under differential treatment, developing countries were allowed longer
implementation periods (up to 10 years) and lower reduction commitments in tariffs
(24% average reductions with 10% minimum per product, refer to Table 1). In
addition, some developing countries were given extra flexibility in establishing tariff
23 The Committee on Agriculture (March 23-24, 2000) directed the WTO Secretariat to
monitor and produce occasional reports on the implementation of tariff quotas and imports
within tariff quotas. The most recent version of such a report is WTO, Tariff and Other
Quotas, TN/AG/S/5, March 21, 2002.
bindings in cases where duties were not bound prior to the Uruguay Round.24 LDCs
were also subject to tariffication and bindings, but were exempt from tariff reduction
Market Access Issues. Many Uruguay-Round participants felt that the
market access concessions eventually obtained were very preliminary and represented
only a minimal beginning at opening many agricultural markets. As a result of the
use of bound rates substantially above applied rates, “dirty tariffication,”
“megatariffs,” and selective product tariff reductions within aggregate groupings,
agricultural tariffs remain very high for some politically sensitive products in some
countries, thereby limiting the trade benefits to be derived from the new rules. Each
of these issues and terms and other emerging market access issues are briefly
Bound vs. Applied Tariffs. Although tariff bindings and reductions
represented a positive step forward, the base period chosen, 1986-88, was a time of
very high protection levels, thereby contributing to the setting of high tariffs under
tariffication.25 In many cases, the bound maximum levels were significantly above
applied rates (the gap is often referred to as “water”). In the process of replacing
NTBs with tariffs, some countries exaggerated their measures of domestic prices or
understated the measures of world prices used, thereby increasing the gap between
domestic and world prices and inflating the new tariff binding — a process called
“dirty tariffication.” Very large tariffs, particularly those much larger than necessary
to protect the difference in domestic and world prices, are called “megatariffs.”
Subjecting bound megatariffs to reductions may still leave the final bound tariff
significantly above the tariff actually applied, thereby having essentially no impact
The benefits of a stable tariff regime are not achieved when bound tariffs are
high and tariffs actually applied are manipulated in response to market conditions.
Some members argue that, in order to effect genuine market access gains, either
dramatic reductions in bound ceilings or setting bound levels at average applied rates
will have to be made. However, several countries contend that substantial “water”
or the gap between bound and applied tariffs gives policymakers more flexibility in
determining the level of import duties needed to protect farmers from subsidized
Flexibility in Tariff Reduction Commitments. The reduction commitment
for aggregate tariffs was substantially larger than the reduction commitment for
individual line items (36% versus 15%, respectively). This difference has afforded
member countries significant flexibility in retaining tariff protection for agricultural
products deemed politically sensitive. Those tariffs most critical for protection of
domestic agriculture generally are only a subset of the total. As a result, a 36%
average reduction can be achieved either by making rather large cuts in tariffs for
24 WTO, Agriculture: Fairer Markets for Farmers, [http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/
25 USDA, ERS, Agriculture in the WTO, “Market Access Issues,” WRS-98-4, Dec. 1998, p.
commodities that do not compete with domestic production or by making large
percentage cuts in tariffs that are already very low, while making only minimal cuts
in politically sensitive tariffs. Members seeking greater market access contend that
future reduction rates for individual products should be closer to the aggregate
reduction rate to avoid within-category manipulation of tariffs.
Tariff Escalation. Several developing countries complain that their domestic
agricultural processing sector faces tariff escalation in international markets — i.e.,
higher duties are charged on processed products than on the raw materials. Such
tariff escalation encourages the exporting of agricultural raw materials rather than
processed products, and the affected countries fail to capture the income gains of
value-added processing. These countries argue for greater harmonization between
raw and processed products in order to better permit countries with substantial
agricultural production to be able to capture the value-added from processing.
Rate of Tariff Reduction. While the long-run goal of increasing market
access through lowering of tariffs is clear, there is widespread disagreement over the
specific formula for such reductions. Countries with generally low import duties
prefer a formulation that would bring the highest tariff rates down the fastest in order
to gradually harmonize tariffs across member countries. However, those countries
with the highest tariff protection rates are reluctant to give up their protection and call
for an approach that uses more egalitarian percentage rate cuts across all tariffs both
high and low. Such an approach would leave the relative level of protection among
member countries essentially unchanged.
Conversion of Specific Tariffs to Ad Valorem. The concept of
converting specific (per-unit) duties to ad valorem (value based) is widely accepted
as the best approach for ensuring transparency, harmonization, and eventual
reduction of market access restrictions. However, the formulation for implementing
such a conversion encounters substantial disagreement over which base prices
(domestic or international) to use to value the per-unit volumes. This issue is
contentious because most members are competing to preserve their current border
protection level. Under tariff conversion, any pricing method that results in a lower
valuation will also imply a lower tariff rate. However, in May 2005, WTO trade
negotiators appear to have reached a compromise agreement on dealing with this
tariff conversion issue.26
TRQ Liberalization. Liberalization concerns loosening the tariff and quota
components of existing TRQs. Some members want to expand quota levels and
reduce in-quota tariffs to zero in order to permit greater market access and ultimately
reduce all trade barriers to tariffs only. In contrast, some members with protective
TRQs have expressed reluctance to part with the protection that they afford. Over-
quota tariffs are subject to the same issues surrounding tariff reductions in general
(see above discussion on rate of tariff reduction).
26 For more information, see CRS Report RS21905, Agriculture in the WTO Doha Round:
The Framework Agreement and Next Steps, by Charles Hanrahan.
TRQ Administration. Because in-quota tariffs are usually substantially lower
than over-quota tariffs, TRQ administration essentially involves how a country
rations the demand for access to in-quota imports. The administration of over 1,400
TRQs by 43 countries has resulted in widely varying interpretations of WTO rules.
Quota administration methods have included auctioning in-quota import rights; state
licensing of rights to preferred importers; state trading enterprises with monopoly
control of in-quota import rights; first-come, first-serve allocation; or in nearly half
of the cases the quota has been ignored and unlimited imports have been allowed at27
or below the in-quota tariff rate.
Many WTO members are now proposing clarifications of existing rules or
adoption of new disciplines. To facilitate the WTO objective of allowing trade to
occur on a commercial basis, some members argue that quota administration methods
should be practical, predictable, and transparent; that quotas should be administered
so as to encourage their full use; that unused import licenses should be reallocated
to ensure their use; that allocations to specified or preferred countries should be
phased out; that imports from non-WTO members should be excluded from WTO
quotas; and that auctioning quota shares should be outlawed.
Importing State-Trading Enterprises (STEs). Several members have
expressed particular concern about the role of STEs in administering TRQs. Their
monopoly power and state ownership shelter STEs from open scrutiny and provide
them with the potential to disrupt markets.
Special Safeguard (SSG) Issues. Many export-oriented countries regard
the WTO’s SSG provisions as overly generous, allowing for their implementation in
situations that do not constitute true import surges or low prices. For example, a year
of unusually low imports, for whatever reasons (e.g., unusually high domestic
production, etc.), may result in the volume SSG trigger being surpassed in the
following year if imports return to normal or slightly above normal levels. In the
DDA, the United States, the Cairns Group, and many developing countries have
proposed elimination of the SSG.28 Several developing countries have proposed
elimination of SSGs for developed countries while preserving the right of developing
countries and LDCs to continue to use SSGs.
Mandatory Labeling. Advocates say this is needed to provide information
for consumers and to cover such issues as production methods and traceability.
Opponents argue that labeling is a technical barrier to trade (TBT) issue, not an
agricultural issue and should therefore be handled by the WTO’s TBT committee.
Geographical Indicators. A geographical indication is a term used to
describe both the origin and characteristics of a product, e.g., Parmesan cheese, etc.
Although geographical indications are most frequently applied to agricultural
27 For more information see USDA, ERS, Agriculture Outlook, “Five Years of Tariff-Rate
Quotas — A Status Report,” Nov. 2000, p. 22-25.
28 The Cairns Group includes Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay,
Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Uruguay.
products, they are not limited to agricultural negotiations alone. Because of
intellectual property rights and labeling aspects, geographical indications are also
discussed within the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)
Council and the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee. Some members, including
the United States, maintain that geographical indications are strictly a TRIPS issue
and should not be included in agricultural negotiations.29
Table 2. WTO Subsidy Reduction Commitments and Provisions
for TRQs and SSGs in Country Schedules, by Member
Count rya P r ovisions P r ovisionsAM S Subsi di e s
Yes/NoFIYb# of tariff lines
No rway yes 2000 11 232 581
Poland yes 2000 17 109 144
Iceland yes 2000 2 90 462
B ulgar ia yes 2001 44 73 21
H unga r y yes 2000 16 70 117
Co lo mb ia yes 2004 18 67 56
Venezuela yes 2004 72 61 76
Barbados 36 37
Switzer land -Liechtenstein yes 2000 5 28 961
T hailand yes 2004 23 52
Guatemala 2 2 107
Ca na d a yes 2000 11 21 150
Japan yes 2000 20 121
Slo venia yes 2000 20
Malaysia 1 9 7 2
Panama 1 19 6
Morocco yes 2004 16 374
Philippines 14 118
T uni si a yes 2004 13 32
Romania 13 12 175
Israel yes 2004 6141
Mexico yes 2004 5 11 293
29 For more information on this topic, see CRS Report RS21569, Geographical Indications
and WTO Negotiations, by Charles Hanrahan.
Count rya P r ovisions P r ovisionsAM S Subsi di e s
China 1 0
Nicaragua 9 2 1
Cr o a tia yes 2004 9
La tvia 4
Li t hua ni a yes 2005 4
Indonesia 1 2 13
Austr a lia yes 2000 7210
B r azil yes 2004 16 2
Namib ia 166
Swaziland 1 6 6
U r ugua y 3 2
Ar ge nt i na yes 2004
Cyp r us yes 2004 9
F.Y.R. Macedonia yes 2003
Jordan yes 2006
Moldova yes 2004
Papua New Guineayes2004
(# of countries) Total(35)(35)(25) 430(43) 1,425(39) 6,156
Source: WTO official documents: TN/AG/S/13 (January 27, 2005) for AMS reduction commitments;
TN/AG/S/8/Rev.1 (January 31, 2005) for export subsidy reduction commitments; TN/AG/S/5 (March
21, 2002) for TRQs; and G/AG/NG/S/9/Rev.1 (February 19, 2002) for SSGs.
aData is sorted by number of TRQ provisions (in descending order) to provide indication of degree
of import protection.b
A blank equals “no.”c
Final implementation year. In general, developed countries had a six-year implementation period
(1995-2000) and developing countries had a nine-year implementation period (1995-2004). Members
that acceded after January 1, 1995, negotiated their implementation period in their country schedule.c
Chinese Taipei joined the WTO on January 1, 2002; however, accession negotiations were completed
well in advance of its accession (for political reasons, Chinese Taipei could not enter the WTO before
Mainland China). During its accession negotiations, Chinese Taipei committed to complete the phase-
down of its total AMS by 2000.
Table 3. Product Category by
Harmonized System Nomenclature
Code Product category TRQsaSSGsbHarmonized System Nomenclature
# of tariff lines
Cereals 2261,0891001-08, 1101-04, 1107-09, 1901-05
Oil seeds, fats and oils and1297121201-08, Ch.15 (except 1504), 2304-
Sugar and confectionery 592981701-4
Dairy products 1837280401-6
Animals and products thereof 2581,3560101-06, 0201-10,1601-02
Beverages and spirits 353292009, 2201-08
Fruit and vegetables 3708310701-14, 0801-14, 1105-06, 2001-08
Agricultural fibers 20135001-03, 5101-03, 5201-03, 5301-02
Coffee, tea, mate, cocoa and582800409-10, 0901-10, 1801, 1803-06,
preparations; spices and2101-06, 2209
other food preparations
Other agricultural products 53373Ch.05 (except 0509), 0601-04, 1209-
Total of all products1,4256,156
Source: WTO official documents: TN/AG/S/5 (March 21, 2002) for TRQs; and
G/AG/NG/S/9/Rev.1 (February 19, 2002) for SSGs.
aTRQ = tariff rate quotas.
bSSG = special safequard.
Review of the Implementation of Commitments
To provide for monitoring and compliance of WTO policy commitments, the
Uruguay Round established a Committee on Agriculture (Article 17) and assigned
it the duty of reviewing progress in the implementation of individual member
commitments (Article 18.1).
Committee on Agriculture
The Committee on Agriculture meets quarterly to review the progress in the
implementation of commitments negotiated under the Uruguay Round or, for
countries that joined after the Uruguay Round’s conclusion in 1994, the
commitments agreed to during WTO accession negotiations. This review process
was to be undertaken on the basis of notifications submitted by members in the areas
of market access, domestic support and export subsidies, and under the provisions
of the AA relating to export prohibitions and restrictions. The Committee on
Agriculture also provides a forum for the discussion of problems or issues
surrounding the compliance of notification obligations, and annually produces a
report on the status of country notifications.30
Each WTO member country was expected to routinely submit notification
reports on the implementation of the various commitments (Articles 5.7, 12.1(b),
18.2 and 18.3). Such notification reports were to be undertaken in accordance with
a clearly defined timetable and a common format (see Table 4 for details).31 In
summary, each member country was expected to submit to the WTO those
notifications relevant to the specific policy commitments in their country schedule
!an initial one-time notification detailing tariffs and quotas for each
!an annual notification of imports made under tariffs and quotas;
!ad hoc notification of the implementation of any special safeguard
!an annual notification indicating the use made of SSGs;
!an annual notification of subsidy outlays made under scheduled
reduction commitments on domestic support — as measured by the
AMS — both in the aggregate and on a product-specific basis,
including all subsidy and price information necessary for the
30 For the 2004 report, see WTO, Committee on Agriculture, General Council Overview of
WTO Activities (2004), G/L/719, Nov. 19, 2004, available at [http://docsonline.wto.org].
31 WTO, Notification Requirements in Respect of Subsidies Under the Agreement on
Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and the Agreement on Agriculture, G/AG/W/13,
Nov. 15, 1995; and WTO, Notification Requirements and Formats Under the WTO
Agreement on Agriculture, PC/IPL/12, Dec. 2, 1994. Both reports are available at
calculation of the AMS, as well as all subsidy outlays exempted
from the AMS calculation;
!ad hoc notification of any changes in the policy environment
relevant to the implementation of its policy commitments;
!an annual notification of subsidy outlays made under scheduled
reduction commitments on export subsidies, both in the aggregate
and on a product-specific basis;
!annual notification of total exports;
!annual notification of total volume of food aid by donor countries;
!ad hoc notification of any potential negative effects experienced by
LDCs and net-food importing countries resulting from WTO policy
Table 4. List of WTO Member Notification Requirements under
the Agreement on Agriculture
Who Fr e q ue nc y
Table LabelTable ContentsNotifyAnnualOther
(See notes below for details)
Market Access (MA)
Table MA:1Implementation of tariff and other quota12
Table MA:2Imports made under tariff and other quota13
Special Safeguard (SSG)
Table MA:3Implementation of volume-based SSG45
Table MA:4Implementation of price-based SSG465
Current Total Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS)
Table DS:1Current total AMS78
Supporting Table DS:1Green Box Outlays 11/78
Supporting Table DS:2Special and Differential Treatment78
Supporting Table DS:3Direct Payments Under Production-78
Limiting Programs (Blue Box) 11/
Supporting Table DS:4Calculation of the Current Total AMS 12/78
Supporting Table DS:5Product-Specific AMS: Market Price78
Supporting Table DS:6Product-Specific AMS: Non-Exempt78
Who Fr e q ue nc y
Table LabelTable ContentsNotifyAnnualOther
(See notes below for details)
Supporting Table DS:7Other Product-Specific AMS and Total78
Product-Specific AMS 12/
Supporting Table DS:8Product-Specific Equivalent78
Measurements of Support
Supporting Table DS:9Non-Product-Specific AMS 12/78
Table DS:2New or Modified Domestic Support910
Measures Exempt from Reductions
Export Subsidy Commitments
Table ES:1Export Subsidy Outlays, Quantity138
Reduction Commitments, and Food Aid
Supporting Table ES:1Outlay and Quantity Reduction138
Table ES:2Notification of Total Exports148
Supporting Table ES:2Developing Country Members using158
Article 9.1 (d) or (e) Export Subsidies
Table ES:3Total Volume of Food Aid168
Export Prohibitions and Restrictions
Possible Negative Effects on Least-Developed Countries and Net-Food Importing
Table NF:1List of potential negative effects from1920
WTO policy reforms
Source: WTO, “Notification Requirements and Formats,” G/AG/2, June 30, 1995; available at
[http://docsonline.wto.org/]. Under the Agreement on Agriculture the notification requirement for
domestic support, tariff and other quota commitments, and export subsidies is under Article 18.2; the
notification requirement for special safeguard provisions is under Article 5.7; the notification
requirement for food aid is under Articles 10 and 18.2; the notification requirement for export
restrictions is under Article 12.1(b); and the notification requirement for possible negative effects of
WTO policy reforms is under Article 16.2.
1.Required of all Members with tariff and other quota commitments recorded in Section I-B of
2.A comprehensive one-time notification on the administration of quotas (Table MA:1) should
be submitted upon accession, followed by the ad hoc notification of any changes in their
administration not later than 30 days following the change.
3.An annual notification showing imports under tariff and other quotas (Table MA:2), should be
submitted no later than 60 days following the year in question.
4.Required of all Members who have reserved the right in their Schedules to use Special
Safeguard Provisions under Article 5 of the AA.
5.A notification in the form of Tables MA:3 and MA:4 should be made as far as practicable before
implementing an SSG for the first time in any year with respect to each product, and in any
event within 10 days of the implementation of an SSG.
6.An annual notification in the form of Table MA:5 should be made indicating the use of the
special safeguard provisions in any year, submitted no later than 30 days following the year’s
end. Where the special safeguard provisions have not been invoked in any year, a statement
to this effect should be made.
7.All Members (except least-developed Members) must notify annually. For Members with no
base and annual commitment levels as shown in Section I of Part IV of their Schedule, the
Committee may, at the request of a developing country Member, set aside this requirement other
than in respect of Supporting Tables DS:1 to DS:3. Least-developed Members should submit
Supporting Tables DS:1 to DS:3 every two years. Where no support exists, a statement to this
effect should be made.
8.To be submitted no later than 120 days after the year in question.
9.All Members with base and annual commitment levels as shown in Section I of Part IV of their
10.No specific timetable is given for notification of Table DS:2.
11.Measures exempt from reduction commitment.
12.There are no specific instructions or guidelines included in the DS Supporting Tables regarding
the calculation of de minimis support levels. Product-specific de minimis are usually reported
in Supporting Table DS:4 or Supporting Table DS:7. Non-production-specific de minimis is
normally reported in Supporting Table DS:9.
13.Required of all Members with base and annual commitment levels shown in Section II of Part
IV of their Schedule. Members with no base and annual commitment levels should submit a
statement confirming that no export subsidies exist (no later than 30 days after the year in
q uestio n) .
14.All Members with base and annual commitment levels shown in Section II of Part IV of their
Schedule, plus Members that are significant exporters of designated products (i.e., Members
with global market shares of at least 5%) as identified in the WTO report G/AG/2/Add.1, 16
15.“Developing” countries using exempt export subsidies (Article 9:1(d) and (e)) of the AA.
16.All food donor Members.
17.Any Member instituting an export prohibition or restriction covered by Article 12 of the AA
(except developing country Members which are not net exporters of the product concerned).
18.A notification should be made as far as practicable in advance of the measure being taken.
19.All Members which provide food aid and technical or financial assistance to Least-Developed
and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries.
20.A notification should be made at least annually and no later than 60 days following the relevant
Trade Policy Review
In addition to the various notification requirements, transparency in the
implementation of policy commitments was further ensured by the establishment of
a formal trade policy review mechanism (TPRM).32 Under the TPRM, a Trade
Policy Review Body (TPRB) — comprised of the WTO General Council operating
under special rules and procedures — was established to carry out reviews of each
member’s trade policies and practices at regular intervals.33 The reviews also take
into account each country’s wider economic and developmental needs, their policies
and objectives, and the external economic environment that they face. Each review
culminates in a published report.34 The TPRB also prepares an annual overview of
developments in the international trading environment which impact the multilateral
trading system.35 All WTO members are subject to review under the TPRM. The
impact of individual members on the functioning of the multilateral trading system,
defined in terms of their share of world trade in a recent representative period, is used
as the determining factor in deciding on the frequency of reviews (see Table 5).
Table 5. Frequency of Trade Policy Review for WTO Members
Time IntervalWhich Members
2 yearsThe 4 members with the 1st through 4th largest shares of total
world trade (currently the European Union, the United
States, Japan, and Canada).
4 yearsThe next 16 members with the 5th through the 20th largest
shares of total world.
Greater than 6 yearsLeast-developed country members.
The objective of the TPRM is to contribute to improved adherence by members
to WTO disciplines and commitments, and to achieve greater transparency in, and
understanding of, the trade policies and practices of members. It is not, however,
intended to serve as a basis for: the enforcement of specific obligations; dispute
settlement procedures; or imposing new policy commitments on members. The
reviews are essentially peer-group assessments, although much of the analysis and
report writing is done by economists in the WTO Secretariat’s Trade Policy Review
32 WTO, The Legal Texts, “Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade
Organization, Annex 3.
33 For more information, see WTO, “Trade Policy Reviews: Ensuring Transparency,” at
[ h t t p : / / www.wt o.or g/ engl i s h/ t r at op_e/ t p r _ e/ t p r _ e.ht m] .
34 For more information and a list of available trade policy review reports, see WTO, Trade
Policy Reviews, at [http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tpr_e.htm].
35 WTO, The Legal Texts, “Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade
Organization, Annex 3(F).
Division. The member under review participates in both the review and the
preparation of the review report.
Special Provisions of the AA
In addition to the AA’s disciplines on subsidies and market access, members
also agreed to provisions concerning the conduct of international trade, as well as a
provision for continuation of the reform process.
Peace Clause. Article 13 exempts certain policies that comply with the AA’s
requirements and with country schedules from being challenged under the WTO’s
rules and procedures governing the settlement of disputes. For example, with respect
to a member’s domestic support commitments, so long as the level of support for any
specific commodity remains at or below the level of support received during the
benchmark year of 1992, Article 13 provides protection from WTO dispute
settlement proceedings even if the actual support level exceeds the member’s
commitments for any given implementation year. The intention of Article 13 is to
allow WTO members sufficient time to comply fully with their commitments,
recognizing that some policies may take several years to bring into full compliance
due to the dynamics of each country’s internal political process. Article 13 asks
members to use “due restraint” in bringing charges against another member for
noncompliance. For this reason, Article 13 is referred to as the “Peace Clause.” The
protection afforded by the AA’s Article 13 expired at the end of 2003.
Continued Reforms. Under Article 20, members committed to start
negotiations on continuing the reform at the end of 1999 or the beginning of 2000.
This process has since been initiated in the multilateral trade round know as the Doha
Development Agenda (DDA). For more information on current agricultural
negotiations in the DDA, see CRS Report RS21905, Agriculture in the WTO Doha
Round: The Framework Agreement and Next Steps, by Charles Hanrahan.
Related Agreements in the Final Act
The Final Act also included several agreements that were specifically singled
out for recognition within the AA because of their importance in conducting
international trade in agriculture.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. One of the legal texts that
emerged from the Uruguay Round was the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary
and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).36 The SPS agreement imposed disciplines on the
use of measures to protect human, animal, and plant life and health from foreign
36 For the official text of the SPS agreement, see The Legal Texts (1999). The SPS
agreement is also available at [http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/legal_e.htm].
pests, diseases, and contaminants.37 It was established to prevent countries from
using arbitrary and unjustifiable health and environmental regulations as disguised
barriers to trade by increasing transparency of countries’ SPS regulations and
providing improved means for settling SPS-related trade disputes. Article 14 of the
AA states that members agree to recognize the SPS agreement.
Consultation and Dispute Settlement. Under the Uruguay Round,
members agreed to a new process — referred to as the Dispute Settlement
Understanding (DSU) — for settling disputes among WTO members as elaborated
in Annex 2 of the Final Act.38 Article 19 of the AA states that members shall apply39
the provisions of the DSU to consultations and the settlement of disputes.
37 For more information on the SPS agreement, see USDA, ERS, Agriculture in the WTO,
“Implementation of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary
Measures,” WRS-98-4, December 1998, p. 27-33.
38 For the official text of the Final Act see, The Legal Texts: The Results of the Uruguay
Round Multilateral Trade Negotiations, Cambridge University Press, ©World Trade
Organization 1999. The Final Act is also available at [http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/
39 For more information on the DSU, see CRS Report RS20088, Dispute Settlement in the
World Trade Organization: An Overview by Jeanne Grimmett; and USDA, ERS, Agriculture
in the WTO, “Improvements in WTO Dispute Settlement,” WRS-98-4, Dec. 1998, pp. 36-40.