Problems in the WTO Agriculture Agreement and the Current State and Prospects for Agricultural Negotiations: The Perspective of a Participant in the Uruguay Round Negotiations

Author Name YAMASHITA Kazuhito  (Senior Fellow)
Creation Date/NO. May 2005 05-J-020
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The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement panels and the appellate body ruled on two important agricultural cases recently, just as concerns were being raised over the excessive juridification of WTO procedures. The cases in question are the United States' subsidies on upland cotton and the European Union's export subsidies on sugar. The verdicts in the both cases were quite different from the conclusions Uruguay Round negotiators would have reached. When negotiators negotiate an agreement, they are not necessarily fully aware that the wording they adopt will become subject to interpretation by legal experts. An agreement, produced as a result of negotiations, is more a political document than a legal one. This makes it quite likely that legal experts' interpretation of the wording of an agreement will deviate from what was intended by the drafters of the agreement. However, it is also true that there is no single method for pure interpretation of such wording, as exemplified by the case of U.S. cotton subsidies in which one member of the appellate body expressed a dissenting opinion with respect to the interpretation of a specific provision concerning export subsidy disciplines. Judgments made in the ruling on the EU sugar case, although they also deviated from what Uruguay Round negotiators had intended in the course of negotiations on the agreement, were generally reasonable in light of economic theory. Regarding the case of U.S. cotton subsidies, however, judgments about subsidies to domestic growers, export credits, and so forth were unreasonable not only in light of the negotiating history, but also from the legal and economic viewpoints. Moreover, there is concern that these decisions may have a serious impact on the Doha Round negotiations.

The Doha Round negotiations have significant similarities with the Uruguay Round negotiations. Looking back on the development of the Uruguay Round, this paper examines the validity of judgments made by WTO dispute settlement panels and the appellate body and explores the future course of negotiations.