Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have adopted a Framework Agreement in July 2004 in order to take forward the Doha Round of negotiations. It will be the basis for future WTO negotiations, which has been stalled since the aborted Cancún Ministerial Conference held in September 2003.
According to this Framework Agreement, the Doha Round will be completed by December 2005. However, it is expected that the negotiations will continue till 2007 and the sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO to be held in Hong Kong on December 2005 will adopt a work-in-progress report (the one that the Cancún Ministerial was suppose to do).
Agriculture holds the key to the progress of negotiations at the WTO. While all WTO members are interested in agriculture negotiations (as it has direct relationship with the livelihoods), some are perceived as major players, such as Australia, Brazil, China, EU, India, South Africa, USA. Some of them viz. Australia, Brazil, EU, India and USA are part of the so-called Five Interested Parties: the informal group, which pushed hard for the adoption of the July 2004 Framework Agreement.
It is expected that WTO negotiations on agriculture and its implications (both in terms of process and content) will have a long-term impact on global economic governance. Besides the fact that the G-20 group of developing countries will play a significant role in the process and outcome of these negotiations, India-Brazil-South Africa are expected to play a coordinated role. They have recently form a group called IBSA.
The Joint Communiqué of the meeting of the IBSA Heads of State and Foreign Secretaries held in Brasilia in September 2003 states: “Recognising trade is an important instrument in economic growth and in the creation and distribution of wealth, they (the Ministers) stressed the importance of promoting a development agenda in the WTO. They renewed their commitment to work together to foster reform in trade in agriculture, which will eliminate all distorting subsidies and ensure access to markets in developed countries, while recognising the need for operationalising special and differential treatment for developing countries. They exchanged views on the ongoing negotiations of the Doha Round, in particular the recently held Cancún meeting, and emphasised the importance of the continued work and coordination of the G-22”.
The project (April 2005 to March 2006) will inter alia conduct action research on IBSA countries’ (India, Brazil and South Africa) positions on WTO negotiations on agriculture.