The Doha Round mandate envisaged a review of the criteria for defining support as “Green Box” support and to allow effective coverage of programmes of developing countries that cause no more than minimal trade-distortion. The draft modalities include proposals to tighten criteria for developed countries and possible revision of conditions for developing countries' food stockpiling purchases from low-income farmers or those with few resources, at prices that are higher than the market.
De minimis support also has to be reduced in the Doha Round, with special treatment for developing countries. Developed countries are to cut by 50% from day one (i.e. cap at 2.5% of the value of production, from the current 5%). Developing countries with Amber Box commitments are required to cut de minimis by two-thirds of the developed country cuts (from the current 10% of the value of production, i.e., ending up with about 6.7% of the value of production). Developing countries, like India, with no AMS commitments will not be required to cut de minimis support.
Yes, this Round also seeks to place limits on subsidies at the level of products, in order to avoid shifting support between different products. For countries other than the US, the ceiling or maximum level would be the average support actually provided during the Uruguay Round implementation period (1995-2000). The calculation for the US would be based on total Amber Box support for specific products per year for that period but shared among products according to the average share over the years 1995-2004. Another special dispensation, implicitly for the US, is that they can begin with a cap that is 30% higher than the scheduled limits.
Negotiations on these issues began first informally in September 2008 and then in the WTO's Agriculture Negotiating Group from October 2008. This continued till early December but solutions continued to elude the negotiators.
In the 6 December 2008 version of the draft modalities, the Chair has left the section on SSM untouched. However, he has given his suggestions for a possible solution to the above UR bound problem in a separate paper (TN/AG/W/7) also brought out on 6 December 2008.
In the Doha Round, the debate has been about whether to eliminate the SSG, or reduce the number of products for which it can be invoked and to constrain it. The G-20 has always maintained that this is a transitional instrument and should be eliminated at the earliest. The EC, Switzerland, Japan and Norway want the SSG to continue.
The Chair's 6 December 2008 text proposed that on the first day of implementation, developed country Members would reduce the number of lines eligible for the SSG to 1% of scheduled tariff lines and eliminate the SSG no later by the end of the seventh year of implementation.
For developing country Members the SSG coverage would be reduced to no more than 2.5% of tariff lines on the first day of implementation. For Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) the SSG coverage shall be reduced to no more than 5 per cent of lines over 12 years.