Analytical Note, November 2014

Improving the Bali Peace Clause on Public Stockholding for Food Security

Since Bali and particularly in the last few months, there has been much attention on the Decision Ministers had taken at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial Conference (2013) on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes.

At Bali, Ministers had agreed to a Peace Clause for existing Public Stockholding programmes provided by developing countries for food security purposes. I.e. if they have these programmes, countries should not be brought to the WTO’s dispute settlement if they are going beyond their domestic support commitments under the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture rules.

The key issue raised recently has been the duration of the Peace Clause, and ambiguity in the language as to whether it lasts only till 2017 or beyond 2017 if a permanent solution has not been found. Yet, despite this headline issue, there are also other very important areas in the text of the Peace Clause that are problematic, and especially for countries that do not have these existing programmes. Some changes can include:

1)      Delete ‘existing’ programmes’ in paragraph 2 so that all countries can benefit from this Peace Clause.

2)      Expand ‘traditional staple food crops’. Ideally, it should be replaced by ‘agricultural commodities that are related to food security and rural development’ (since this is provided for in the Doha mandate).

3)      The transparency conditions should be reduced and should not be in additional to what developed countries have to do.

4)      Paragraph 4 on ‘do not distort trade’ should be deleted. At the least, it should be softened.

5)      The Public Stockholding Peace Clause should also give the same coverage from dispute settlement challenges to developing countries as Article 13 of the Agreement on Agriculture had provided the developed countries.

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