World Trade Organization:

Progress in Agricultural Trade Negotiations May Be Slow

T-NSIAD-00-122: Published: Mar 7, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 2000.

Additional Materials:


Benjamin F. Nelson
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the negotiations on agricultural trade being conducted by the World Trade Organization (WTO), focusing on: (1) U.S. and other countries' objectives in the agricultural trade negotiations; (2) progress achieved during the 1999 WTO Seattle ministerial conference; and (3) prospects for future negotiations.

GAO noted that: (1) WTO member countries intended to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations covering agriculture and other issues at their biennial Ministerial Conference last December in Seattle, Washington; (2) the principal objectives of the United States and several other agricultural exporting countries for liberalizing agricultural trade included: (a) elimination of export subsidies; (b) a reduction in trade-distorting domestic agricultural support programs; and (c) an increase in market access for agricultural products in member countries; (3) on the other hand, the European Union and other countries opposed any attempt to eliminate export subsidies; (4) trade ministers meeting in Seattle intended to conclude the ministerial conference with a ministerial declaration that would launch a new round and set the agenda for negotiations in each subject area, including agriculture; (5) there is general agreement by conference participants that negotiations on agriculture made the most progress of any area at the Seattle conference; (6) countries had moved closer to reaching consensus on many of the issues to be addressed and on the timeframes for completing agricultural negotiations in a new round; (7) however, this progress was essentially lost when countries could not reach consensus on an agriculture text, and the conference was adjourned without launching a new round or issuing a ministerial declaration; (8) despite the impasse in Seattle, agricultural trade negotiations will resume this year in Geneva as mandated by the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture; (9) however, it is unlikely that these talks will meet U.S. objectives for liberalizing agricultural trade any time soon, for several reasons; (10) the failure to issue a ministerial declaration may make it difficult for negotiators in Geneva to build on the progress made in Seattle; (11) there is some concern whether countries will be willing to make concessions on agriculture without trade-offs in other areas, as would have been the case in a trade round with a broader negotiating agenda; (12) not much progress should be expected this year, since groundwork must be laid before substantive negotiations can begin; and (13) for example, WTO members have yet to submit proposals as to what should be on the negotiating agenda for agriculture.

Nov 19, 2020

Nov 9, 2020

Oct 27, 2020

Oct 2, 2020

Sep 22, 2020

Sep 15, 2020

Sep 14, 2020

Aug 27, 2020

Jul 28, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here