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: