Home > Toward the Establishment of Trade Rules for the 21st Century that Contribute to the Era of "Diversity and Coexistence"


Toward the Establishment of Trade Rules for the 21st Century that Contribute to the Era of "Diversity and Coexistence"

-Japan's Proposal for the Upcoming WTO Negotiations-
(Agriculture, GMOs, Forestry/Aquatic Products)


- The 21st century should be an era in which countries, regions and people with diverse values can coexist by accepting one another; in other words, an era of "diversity and

- The WTO negotiations on agricultural, forestry and fishery products are negotiations in which each country is expected to show how it can contribute to people's lives and to the international society in realizing the era of "diversity and coexistence," though, for example, maintenance of a well-balanced relationship between agriculture, forestry or
fishery and the environment, fulfilling such tasks as sustainable use of resources, measures to deal with a starving population that exceeds 800 million, etc.

- Conventional trade negotiations were strictly focused on liberalization and facilitation of trade, and the basis of all discussions was how to facilitate the export trade of exporting countries. Therefore, under the current WTO agreement, considerable obligations are imposed on importing countries, while only lax rules cover measures taken by the exporting countries, including export bans.

- Under such policy, agricultural, forestry and fishery industries of importing countries will have no choice but to reduce their sphere of activities.This may result in depriving importing countries of the extremely important, multifaceted and public benefit functions provided by domestic agricultural, forestry and fishery industries, such as conservation of land and the natural environment, security of primary industries as a basis of a healthy industrial structure, security of a stable food supply that may affect the subsistence of the people, and support for local communities as the basis of national society.

- We cannot accept that such situations would take place. As an antithesis to the extremely trade-oriented principles that gives rise to these situations and fail to pay sufficient consideration to environmental problems and sustainable use of resources, we would like to make the following proposals to all people coexisting on this earth as a theme for us to share and to reach a common understanding.


Five Major Points of "Japan's Proposals"

  1. The Importance of the Multi-functionality of Agriculture
  2. The Importance of Food Security
  3. Impartiality between Exporting Countries and Importing Countries
  4. Special Consideration for Developing Countries
  5. Response to New Challenges such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

1. The Importance of the Multi-functionality of Agriculture

Gist of the suggestion

Agriculture has various roles, or "multi-functionality," that are indispensable for human life, such as the conservation of land and the natural environment, the shaping of favorable landscapes, etc. through production in harmony with the natural environment.
Such “multi-functionality” is made manifest through sustainable domestic agriculture in each country and cannot be secured by trade.

The Multi-functionality of agriculture are recognized internationally.  

[1]The functions must be demonstrated in combination with production activities.
[2]The functions must be demonstrated through conventional, generally carried-out agricultural production activities.
[3]Value of the functions must be commonly acknowledged by people of the respective country.

2. The Importance of Food Security

Gist of the suggestion

To maintain peace and guarantee a stable food supply are the fundamental obligations of a country to its people.
Therefore, the "importance of food security," that is the right of any country to acquire what is considered to be the minimum amount of food in need, should widely be accepted.
Given the possibility of scarcity in the global food supply in the future, and the problem of starvation and undernutrition in developing countries, each country's domestic production should form the basis for food security.

Food security is an international agenda.

Japan is the world's largest importer of agricultural products, with much lower self-sufficiency rate than other developed countries.

Agricultural production supply and demand is liable to become unstable due to the following factors:

  1. Production may be severely restricted by natural conditions such as water supply or weather.
  2. Volume of production may easily change.
  3. It is difficult to respond promptly to supply and demand changes, because production requires a set amount of time and products may not be stored for a long-term.

There may be scarcity in global food production in the medium- or long-term.

Given that there is little likelihood of a future, large-scale increase in the amount of land in cultivation globally, it is important to maintain domestic productivity in importing countries to as great an extent as possible.

3. Impartiality between Importing and Exporting Countries

Gist of the suggestion

As a result of the Uruguay Round agricultural agreement, importing countries have many obligations and may not, in principle, restrict import quantities, regardless of their domestic supply/demand situation. However, exporting countries are governed by lax rules on quantitative export restrictions.Thus, the current WTO agricultural agreement lacks impartiality.
It is indispensable to review this situation and recover impartiality between importing and exporting countries, in order to establish impartial and fair trade rules for every country in the world.

Rules under the current agricultural agreement are partial to exporting countries.  

Export bans and export levies are still invoked by exporting countries for their own reasons.

4. Special Consideration for Developing Countries

Gist of the suggestion

In the 21st century, the era of diversity and coexistence, it will be important to consider the needs and the situations of every country.
It will be particularly vital to understand the positions, different from those of export-leading countries, of the developing countries that account for the majority of WTO member countries.For example, in order to resolve the issue of food security, the top-priority for developing countries facing starvation and undernutrition, it is indispensable to support their efforts toward improving their domestic food-producing capabilities.
In the negotiations, we consider it necessary to achieve impartiality between developed and developing countries by paying special attention to developing countries, including various support measures, and to establish trade rules that enable developing countries to participate actively in the WTO framework.

It is also stipulated in Article 20 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture that special consideration should be paid to developing countries in the negotiations.

Developing countries account for approximately three-quarters of all WTO member countries. Therefore, it is indispensable to establish trade rules that duly pay attention to the situations in developing countries, in order to lead the whole framework of the WTO negotiations to a success.

The current state of population growth and the extent of undernourishment,  primarily within developing countries, is extremely serious. As the only net importer of agricultural products among major developed countries, Japan will take part in the negotiations with an awareness of being a representative food-importing country that shares common problems with developing countries.

5. Response to New Challenges, such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Gist of the suggestion

In recent years, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about safety of food issues including genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
environmental problems, etc.Thus, it is essential to respond to these new challenges in an appropriate manner.
For example, many issues are emerging concerning the production, import/export, labeling, protection of rights, etc. of GMO foods.
For these issues that are attracting considerable public attention and were not foreseen at the time of Uruguay Round negotiations, it is necessary to establish a forum to analyze the current situation, to address all aspects of the issues and to work positively from a wide perspective.

Production of GM crops has increased considerably since 1996, after the conclusion of the Uruguay Round agreement. Most GM crops are cultivated in the US, Argentina and Canada (These three countries account for 99% of the total cultivation, of which the US commands a 74% share.)

It is important to discuss GMO issues by comprehensively examining the relevant agreements in each phase, from R&D to sales.

1. TRIPS agreement: “Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights".
2. SPS agreement: "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures".
3. TBT agreement: "Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade".  

Forestry/Fishery Products

1. Proper Management of Forestry/Fishery Resources

Gist of the suggestion

Forestry and fishery resources are different from other non-agricultural products in that they are renewable, exhaustible natural resources that will be depleted unless managed appropriately, and that they are related with global environmental issues. 
Therefore, special trade rules must be established for forestry and fishery resources. Examples of such rules are: trade rules enabling forestry management to maintain the public benefits provided by forests, or trade rules contributing to conservation and management for the sustainable use of fishery resources. We consider that deforestation or overexploitation of such resources must not be encouraged by unrestricted free trade.It is also necessary to take appropriate measures that are fair
and impartial to both importing and exporting countries.

Japan is the world's largest importer of timber and fishery products, importing approximately 20% of the world's total trade volume of timber and approximately 30% of the world's total trade in fishery Products. Therefore, Japan thinks that we need to deal with forestry and fishery products trade with an adequate perspective on global environmental issues and the sustainable use of resources. 

Forestry resources are decreasing and degrading globally. This causes problems such as a substantial decrease in biodiversity and the rapid progress of global warming due to the increase of carbon dioxide. Since the Earth Summit in 1992, such global environmental problems have been attracting increasing concerns, and sustainable forest management has been regarded as one of the most important issues the world is facing. We should establish trade rules under which each country can enhance the public benefits provided by forests, through sound management and development of its forestry/timber industries.

Fishery resources cannot be used in a sustainable manner unless conservation measures are established in the coastal areas of various countries and international fishing grounds.If trade liberalization is pursued without appropriate conservation and management measures, there may be overexploitation, ignoring of the condition of the resources, or trade paying no attention to conservation and management measures.

Forests are natural resources with various functions providing the public benefits. These functions are maintained through appropriate management, including forestry production activities.

69% of the world’s main fishery resources is fully utilized or over-utilized, and overexploitation of valuable fish species, such as tuna, is becoming serious problems.

Source: FAO "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1998"

2. How to Address of Forestry/Fishery Products in the WTO Negotiations

Gist of the suggestion

It is essential to examine trade rules on forestry/fishery products from a comprehensive standpoint, sufficiently considering global environmental problems and sustainable use of resources as well as deliberations/rules of other international frameworks.
Therefore, a group for forestry and fishery products should be established, separately from that for other non-agricultural products, to examine such trade rules.

International deliberations have been conducted and rules established concerning the conservation of forestry/fishery resources.

3. How to Deal with Fishery Subsidies in the WTO Negotiations

Gist of the suggestion

This is an argument that fishery subsidies should be eliminated because they contribute to over-exploitation of resources. However, in order to secure appropriate conservation and management, as well as sustainable use of fishery resources, it is necessary to examine not only fishery subsidies,but also all the other factors that impede sustainable use of resources.At the same time, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that many of the fishery subsidies contribute to conservation and
management of fishery resources, for example reducing fishing vessels and enhancing fish stocks.
How to deal with fishery subsidies in the WTO should be examined by promotingexpert examination by the FAO, which has considerable knowledge on sustainable use of resources and fishery management.

The world's total forested area is approximately 3.5 billion hectares.
Every year, 11 million hectares of the forest, equivalent to about half of Japan's forested area, are lost. Particularly, tropical forests, which have an abundant biodiversity, are rapidly decreasing and seclining in quality.

Region  Annual decrese/increase(1,000ha) Annual
Tropical zone Temperate zone etc. Total
Africa -3,695 -53 -3,748 -0.7
Asia -3,055 -273 -3,328 -0.7
Latin America -5,692 -119 -5,811 -0.6
World Total -12,593 1,324 -11,269 -0.3

Rome Declaration on Forestry
“(There is a) need for integrated land use and mutually supportive trade and environment policies in support to sustainable forest management.”

Rome Declaration on Fisheries
“(States) will address aspects of trade and environment related to fisheries and aquaculture within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. 

Note: FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries 11-2-2 "International trade in fish and fishery products should not compromise the sustainable development of fisheries and responsible utilization of living fishery resources."

Fishery subsidies for reduction of fishing vessels and stock enhancement are playing the following important roles:

Reducing excess fishing capacity
Promoting resource management
Protecting/enhancing fish stocks, etc



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