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Agriculture and fisheries

Agriculture is a sector that is distorted by subsidies and high trade barriers, but directly affecting access to food, fibers for clothing and other materials, and the livelihoods of farmers around the world. WTO members have taken steps to address these distortions impeding a fairer agricultural trading system and adopted in 2015 a historic decision to abolish agricultural export subsidies and to set rules for other forms of farm export support. 

Agriculture export subsidies

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.

Producer support estimates

The figure presents volume of government support to agriculture over 2000 to 2016 in select developing and developed countries.

Producer support estimates (PSE) remained roughly the same for select developed countries since 2000, however in relative terms there has been a decline. Support levels in select developing economies have increased rapidly, though PSE of developing countries declined in 2016.   

For the 50 countries covered, almost 60 per cent of support to farmers was provided in the form of market price support, which distort production decisions and trade. Moreover, these averages mask widely divergent levels of support. Other highly production and trade distorting forms of support to producers, such as payments based on output quantities or on the use of variable inputs, play a much smaller role overall, but remain important in certain markets. Therefore, the OECD Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2017 report noted the need for further reorientation of current food and agriculture policies in many countries.

A more comprehensive and larger coverage of data is also urgently needed. Following on the World Bank’s initiatives to measure agricultural incentives globally, five international organizations – FAO, IADB, IFPRI, OECD, and the World Bank – have jointly created a web-based tool, managed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), to provide continually-updated estimates of agricultural incentives in more than 100 countries. 

Fisheries subsidies

SDG 14.6 sets a target for eliminating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing subsidies and for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs.

The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires in December 2017 adopted a commitment from members to secure a deal which delivers on the SDG target 14.6 by the end of 2019. 2018 and 2019 will be key in defining the technical ground for common disciplines on which agreement may be reached and to find the political will needed for a final multilateral outcome.