WTO and Agriculture

The World Trade Organization (WTO) came into being in 1995 and now includes 150 member countries. It is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established in the wake of the Second World War. (http://www.wto.org/english.htm).

The WTO's objective is to create a smooth international trading system by removing all trade barriers, whether high custom tariffs or restrictions on products that can be imported into a country. For example, Europe does not want to import beef from cattle fed growth hormones, or agricultural products derived from genetic engineering (commonly known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs).

The issue of agricultural trade was raised for the first time during the last trade negotiations, the Uruguay Round (1995-2001). At that time, members agreed to reduce barriers. They began to liberalize this sector and agreed to continue the reform process during the next round of talks.

In November 2001, in Qatar, WTO member countries launched the Doha round of negotiations. Agriculture is a key issue in these negotiations,

The proposals currently on the table, if accepted, would seriously affect Canadian agriculture, in particular, the supply-managed commodities.

The current round of negotiations has been plagued by major schedule delays. A framework agreement was adopted in July 2004 by all WTO member countries. Cet accord constitue le principal acquis des négociations jusqu'à présent. Since then, talks have focused on terms and conditions, since the countries haven’t been able to agree on measures to increase market access, reduce domestic support and eliminate export subsidies.