Subsidy control: guidance

Guidance to help public sector bodies to understand and comply with subsidy control.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on agriculture and fisheries


Subsidies relating to Agriculture are not covered by the provisions set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). If a proposed measure is within scope of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), then the WTO Regulations apply. This covers subsidies relating to the majority of agricultural products and some forestry and horticulture products.

The AoA does not contain a specific definition of a subsidy. Therefore, definitions contained within the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) should be read across to the AoA where applicable.

The scope of the Agreement is outlined through specified product coverage contained in Annex 1 of the Agreement. If producers of the listed products are eligible for support, then the support is likely to be within scope of the AoA.

Classifications of support under the AoA

The classification of support covered by the AoA is treated differently depending on whether it is considered trade distorting or not, and is differentiated as follows:

  • green box support is support which is considered to have no, or minimal, trade distorting effect
  • blue box support is support considered trade-distorting (because it is coupled to levels of production) but with limited impacts because it is coupled to limited levels of production
  • amber box support is support which is considered to be potentially trade distorting

Green box and blue box support are not subject to limits under the AoA. Permitted support that does not meet the green box or blue box requirements is by default amber box and is subject to limits. The WTO limit for amber box support applies to the UK as a whole. Scotland’s proportion of this limit is 12.67% of the UK total.

For transparency purposes, all (green, blue, and amber box) domestic support that falls within the scope of the AoA must be notified to the WTO on an annual basis.

WTO and UKCB notification

New support measures (subsidy schemes) that fall within scope of the AoA must be notified to the WTO via the UK Co-ordinating Body (UKCB). In accordance with The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (Domestic Support) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 1578), the UKCB is the body designated by the Secretary of State to co-ordinate the collection of information needed to enable the United Kingdom to comply with its obligations under the Agreement on Agriculture.

The Domestic Support Regulations stipulate that an authority proposing a new scheme must give written notice of that support, as soon as practicable, and in most cases, at least six months before the day on which the proposing authority intends to adopt the new domestic support.

This also applies to schemes that are being amended as noted in paragraph six of The Domestic Support Regulations.

The UKCB will circulate the notification of the new or amended scheme/support measure to UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the devolved administrations who are given the opportunity to comment. If all administrations are satisfied, DEFRA will submit the notification to the WTO. At this point, member states will be given an opportunity to comment on the support measure/scheme.

Notifications of new scheme/support measures should be sent to the Subsidy Control Team who will instigate the UKCB process. Notifications should take the form of a completed Regulation 5 form available at the top of this page. Please contact the Subsidy Control Team for help with completing this form. 


Subsidies relating to fish, fish products and aquaculture are also exempt from the regulations of the TCA. There is no equivalent WTO Trade Agreement yet relating specifically to fish and fish products however, this is expected to be agreed upon shortly. Until a fsheries agreement is in place, support measures relating to fish and fish products are regulated by the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM).


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