Agriculture and fisheries

WTO members have taken steps to reform the agriculture sector and to address the subsidies and high trade barriers that distort agricultural trade. The overall aim is to establish a fairer trading system that will increase market access and improve the livelihoods of farmers around the world.. WTO members have adopted in 2015 a historic decision to abolish agricultural export subsidies and to set rules for other forms of farm export support. The elimination of export subsidies is one of the targets agreed under SDG 2, which focuses on tackling hunger and ensuring food security, among other related issues.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda specifically:

  • Calls on WTO members to correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and disciplines on all export measures with equivalent effect
  • Calls on WTO members to strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing in accordance with mandate of the Doha Development Agenda and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration

Update from the 2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report

The WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in 2017 highlighted fundamental differences and divisions among the members, notably on certain issues under the agricultural negotiation pillar. Renewed efforts are required to move beyond these differences and make progress on a range of issues vital for growth and development.

In agriculture, a new model for advancing negotiations has been proposed, following a series of thematic sessions held in the second half of 2018, with the establishment of seven working groups for a trial period from January to April 2019. These working groups are expected to address Domestic Support, Public Stockholding for Food Security purposes, Cotton, Market Access, Special Safeguard Mechanism, Export Competition and Export Restrictions. An outcome in agriculture negotiations would notably contribute to SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). In negotiations on fisheries subsidies, three consecutive work programmes covering work from May 2018 to July 2019 were established. These aim at putting members in a position to meet the deadline of end-2019 as set out in target 14.6 of the SDGs and reaffirmed at the Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. This will require full engagement of all delegations and should contribute to SDG 14 (life below water) by reaching an agreement that prohibits certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing and eliminates subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated-fishing with appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing-country members and LDC members. 

Relevant SDG indicator