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The purpose of the Commodity Market Review (CMR), a biennial publication of the FAO Commodities and Trade Division, is to analyse in depth a set of issues relating to agricultural commodity market developments that are deemed by FAO as current and crucial for FAO’s member countries. There is little doubt that the major issues of importance and concern to all agricultural producing and trading countries in the past few years, have been related to the Doha Round negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in particular to the issues concerning a new agreement on agricultural trade, following the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) of the Uruguay Round (UR) of negotiations.

One of the major accomplishments of the UR was to bring agriculture into the international system of trade disciplines under the WTO. However, the AOA, while providing a valuable framework for classifying the types of support to agriculture under the so called three pillars (market access, domestic support, and export competition), led to little effective trade liberalization in agriculture. One of the main reasons for this lack of progress in the period following the UR, as well as the slow progress in the current Doha Round negotiations, can be attributed to the insistence of several producing and trading countries on exempting some so-called sensitive and special agricultural products from whatever disciplines are agreed upon in the Doha Round. These products are usually very important for the economies of these countries, and hence considerable non-economic concerns are involved in the argumentation for exemptions. There are difficulties, however, in classification of these products, as well as estimating the appropriate type of protection or exemption from liberalization, given the various non-economic arguments. It is for this reason that this biennial CMR is devoted to exploring in depth a variety of issues relevant to such agricultural products, from the viewpoints of both the developed, as well as the developing countries. The articles that are included deal with both cross-commodity issues, such as criteria for special products and appropriate rules for special safeguards, as well as particularities of individual commodities, such as rice, sugar, dairy and others that are regarded as sensitive or special for several countries.

The selection of articles included in this CMR are all written by staff and collaborators of the FAO Commodities and Trade Division, and have undergone both internal, and external review. They are published as a contribution of FAO to the ongoing Doha Round negotiations, as well to promote awareness among the wider international community of issues that at times are technical and difficult to comprehend.

Alexander Sarris
FAO Commodities and Trade Division
Rome, December 2005

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