The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) represents a fundamental change in the way agriculture is treated under the rules governing trade among WTO member countries. Prior to the Uruguay Round, rules on trade in agricultural products in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were largely ineffective due to a number of loopholes and exceptions that, in effect, excluded much of this trade from most of the disciplines applied to trade in manufactured goods. But under the AoA, countries agreed to reduce agricultural support and protection in the areas of market access, domestic support, and export subsidies-sometimes referred to as the "three pillars" of the agreement.
Under market access, countries agreed to open markets by prohibiting nontariff barriers, converting nontariff barriers to tariffs, and reducing tariffs. Countries also agreed to reduce expenditures on export subsidies and the quantity of agricultural products exported with subsidies. Domestic support reductions were achieved through commitments to reduce a country's aggregate measurement of support (AMS)-a numerical measure of the value of most trade-distorting domestic policies.
The AoA recognized that the long-term objective of substantial progressive reductions in support and protection is an ongoing process. As a result, it committed members to initiate negotiations by the end of 1999. Agriculture and services were the only areas where negotiations on further trade liberalization were mandated in the Uruguay Round Agreements that established the WTO. Agricultural negotiations began in January 2000, in advance of the official launching of the Doha Round.
See the AoA General Issues section of the recommended readings page for more information regarding general issues related to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.
Other Agreement on Agriculture Issues: