When the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1995, its members committed themselves to a set of disciplines for domestic support, market access, and export competition for agriculture. The Agreement on Agriculture paved the way for the pursuit of progressive reductions in world agricultural market distortions. By establishing rules for classifying domestic support policies and ceiling commitments to limit the levels of support provided by certain measures, it was hoped that countries would be encouraged to move their domestic farm policies in a less trade-distorting direction.
The domestic support rules proposed under the stalled Doha Development Round negotiations, which commenced in 2001, are more stringent, calling for tightened and extended commitments for some countries. Nonetheless, several major world economies (including the United States and European Union) are already within the final Doha limits. How has this happened and what value would a Doha agreement have?

To answer these questions, a new book, WTO Disciplines on Agricultural Support: Seeking a Fair Basis for Trade edited by David Orden, David Blandford, and Tim Josling (Cambridge University Press, 2011), examines the evolution of farm policies in eight developed and developing countries (US, EU, Japan and Norway; Brazil, India, China and the Philippines) during 1995−2008. An assessment is made of how they have notified their support – or could notify where there are missing submissions. The assessment illuminates the complexity of WTO domestic support issues. The extent to which the WTO agreement has affected support levels and promoted policy reform is evaluated. Projected support into the mid 2010s is compared to the proposed Doha rules and commitments. The book also addresses what is needed beyond Doha to make further progress in accurately tracking and imposing meaningful constraints on policies that distort agricultural production and trade.

An IFPRI policy seminar held on Tuesday, June 7 to draw on this analysis and provide a forum for discussion of the findings. The seminar will include observations by Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, the former United States Trade Representative who oversaw the launch of the Uruguay Round negotiations that created the WTO, as well as an overview of the book’s main findings, presented by Senior IFPRI Research Fellow David Orden, and comments by the book’s co-editors, Timothy Josling and David Blandford. Watch Senior IFPRI Research Fellow David Orden discuss the subject of WTO disciplines on agricultural support below.

Watch a live webcast of the seminar.

Download the Research Brief based on the book.

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