Jacques Chai Chomthongdi*

G20: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.


The G20 currently comprises 19 developing country members of the WTO. Led by Brazil and India, the G20 has become one of the most important groupings in the WTO negotiation since the Cancun ministerial in 2003. The group has recently proposed a compromise formula for tariff reduction (middle ground between the Swiss and Uruguay round approach), which has been widely accepted as a basis for further negotiation. While arguing for the limited use of “sensitive products” (a mechanism which would mainly benefit developed countries), the group is more supportive to the “special products” (SPs) and “special safeguard mechanism” (SSM) favoured by the G33. The group has an offensive interest in reviewing domestic supports, especially on the use of the Blue Box where the group is the main driver of the review process to ensure that payments under this provision are less trade distorting than AMS* measures, and on the Green Box where it wants to see new disciplines to avoid box shifting. On export competition, the group has proposed a five-year deadline for eliminating all subsidies. (*Aggregate Measurement of Support: support measures that need to be reduced under the AoA, known as the Amber Box.)

 G33: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Botswana, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Saint Kits and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.



The G33, or known as “friends of special products” is understood to comprise of 42 countries. On the tariff reduction formula, the group is opposing the harmonization of tariffs across countries, and insisting on taking into account the different tariff structures of developing countries. The G33 is the main proponent of SPs and SSM (see G20 above). On SPs, it insists on self-selection on the basis of the indicators developed. On SSM, it proposes that this mechanism should be open to all developing countries for all agricultural products. Moreover, the SSM should be automatically triggered by either import surges or prices falls. The group is also very vocal on rejecting the developed countries’ proposal of cutting de minimis provision allowed for developing countries.


Cairns Group: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

The group comprises of traditionally agriculture exporting countries. The Cairns Group has an obvious offensive interest in market access. It seeks harmonisation of import tariff across WTO members, and, like the US, views the G20 proposals as “lacking ambition”. The Cairns Group would like to limit as far as possible the sensitive products, but the group is divided on the SPs & SSM, which is also the case regarding the issue of trade distorting domestic support, where some members are significant users of the Amber Box. Concerning the Blue Box, Green Box, and export competition, it shares a similar offensive position as the G20. That means the group is seeking restrictions in subsidies predominantly used by developed countries.

G10: Bulgaria, Chinese Taipei, Republic of Korea, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway and Switzerland.

This is the group of ten countries with the most defensive interest in the agriculture negotiation. It opposes the G20 formula, particularly the tariff capping element. It argues for a free determination of products to be designated as sensitive. The G10 also has strong defensive position regarding domestic support. Like the EU, it is not interested in expanding criteria, but wants to maintain the status quo of the Blue Box. Also, it opposes the proposal to review and clarify criteria for the Green Box. As for export competition, the G10 wants a long time frame for the elimination of export subsidies. Moreover, very much like the EU, it links this particular issue to outcomes in other areas of negotiation such as NAMA and Services.

African Union/Group, ACP, least-developed countries: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea (Conakry), Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

This grouping, also known as the G90, has 64 WTO member countries. Although members of the group do not share all positions in the negotiations, the most crucial and common concern of the group is the preference erosion, which is related to all three pillars of the agriculture negotiation. Many of the countries in the group are very dependant on certain Northern markets for their agriculture exports due to the existing preferential schemes. Countries in the G90 want to see specific and concrete solutions to the problems of preference erosion. Many suggest that preferences should be maintained until such time as all domestic and export subsidies are removed that affect their commodities.

United States

While having a very offensive position on market access, the US adopts almost an opposite approach on domestic support. It views the G20 formula proposal as not ambitious enough, and emphasizes the limited scope and flexibility of sensitive products. Plus, it strongly opposes SSM by arguing the duplication with SPs. At the same time, it does not want to see changes to the Green Box status quo. The US is the main proponent for the expansion of the Blue Box criteria, which would allow for its counter cyclical payments to continue and expand. The US is the main user of export credits and food aid schemes to deal with its over supply of agriculture products. Thus, it has adopted a defensive position in export competition in the aspects linked to these two elements.


European Union

The EU has been taking a rather defensive approach in the market access negotiations. Although accepting the G20 proposal as a starting point, it criticises the formula as too ambitious. However, unlike the G10, the EU also has offensive interest in accessing other countries’ markets. At the same time as it argues for a flexible use of sensitive products, it exerts pressure on developing countries to restrict the flexibility regarding SPs & SSM. On domestic support, the EU wants to maintain the status quo in both the Blue Box and Green Box and opposes the review proposals. It has a very sensitive defensive interest in the export competition. It argues for a long time frame for the elimination of export subsidies, and hasn’t so far given any end date for these subsidies. Plus, it has put forth several pre-conditions in order to achieve this elimination, including the ambitious liberalization in other areas such as non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services (GATS).


* Jacques Chai Chomthongdi works with Focus on the Global South and is based in Geneva.