These agreements provide some flexibility in implementation by developing countries as well as for WTO members (special and differentiated treatment) and least developed countries (LDCs) and net food-importing developing countries (special provisions). Before the Uruguay Round negotiations, it became increasingly clear that the causes of confusion in global agriculture went beyond the import access problems, which had been the traditional centre of gravity of the GATT negotiations. To reach the root causes of the problems, disciplines were considered essential for all agricultural trade measures, including national agricultural policy and agricultural export subsidies. In addition, clearer rules on health and plant health measures were deemed necessary, both in their own legislation and in avoiding the circumvention of stricter rules on access to imports through unjustified and protectionist application of food security, as well as animal and plant health measures. Export subsidies are the third pillar. The 1995 agricultural agreement required industrialized countries to reduce export subsidies by at least 36% (in value terms) or by 21% (by volume) over a six-year value. For developing countries, the agreement called for reductions of 24% (in value) and 14% (in volume) over ten years. The 1947 GATT initially applied to agriculture, but was incomplete, and the signatory states (or “contracting parties”) excluded this sector from the scope of the principles set out in the general agreement. During the period 1947-1994, members were allowed to use export subsidies for primary agricultural products and to impose import restrictions under certain conditions, so that major agricultural raw materials faced trade barriers in unusual proportions in other sectors. The road to a fair, market-oriented agricultural trade system has therefore been difficult and time-consuming; and the negotiations were finally concluded during the Uruguay Round. Agriculture has a special status in WTO agreements and trade agreements (signed in 1994 and entered into force on 1 January 1995), with the sector having a specific agreement, the agriculture agreement, whose provisions prevail.
In addition, some provisions of the agreement on the application of plant protection measures (SPS) also concern agricultural production and trade.