SALEM, Ohio – Farm groups let out a sigh of disappointment after talks stalled earlier this week during the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
Talks July 24 in Geneva, Switzerland, were suspended after a meeting of the G6 countries failed to reach an agreement on important market access issues.
The G6 includes the U.S., the European Union, Brazil, Australia, Japan and India.
Losing a chance. In statements from WTO headquarters, U.S. Trade Rep. Susan Schwab called the Doha Round this generation’s chance to make a significant contribution to world trade.
“We must not let that opportunity slip through our fingers. Sadly, today we face the prospect of that happening,” she said.
Schwab vowed the U.S. would continue working to complete the Doha agreement to open markets for agricultural and manufactured goods and services by eliminating tariffs, subsidies and other trade barriers.
“Others may sound willing to walk away. The U.S. is not,” she said. “We are not giving up now, nor are we going to settle for a mere shadow of Doha’s promise.”
Using loopholes. Schwab said the U.S. ambassadors went to Geneva with intentions on pushing talks forward.
However, loopholes in market access revealed that a number of developed and advanced developing countries were looking for ways to be less ambitious, to avoid making ambitious contributions, she said.
Tabled. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns shared details on the tabled proposal, using beef tariffs as an example.
Johanns said the current tariff for high-quality beef in the European Union is 80 percent.
“That blocks the market. There is no more effective trade distortion than that,” he said.
Under the defeated proposal, that tariff would have been lowered to 61 percent.
“That is still a remarkable blocking of the market. It makes it impossible to sell beef into that marketplace,” he said.
“So the [tariff rate quota], we finally found out after discussion, for the whole world, would allow in 160,000 tons of beef. That’s 2 percent of the market.”
Tariff rate quota is a method used to limit imports. Goods imported up to a certain quota face lower tariffs; over that point, the tariffs are higher.
“Can anybody seriously argue that advanced developing countries literally arguing for 95 to 98 percent of their marketplace being protected in agriculture is going to result in an increase in trade flows? I think not,” Johanns said.
Not giving up. Johanns said there’s too much at stake to let stalled talks grow stale.
“We are committed to the multilateral process, we are committed to these negotiations, we are committed to the WTO, and we have a president who is committed to the elimination of trade distorting domestic support. We have a historic opportunity here,” he said.
Farm level. Farm group and commodity leaders are echoing that same support.
“At a time when the goods produced by America’s farmers and ranchers continue to be barred from markets across the world by stifling tariffs and other trade barriers, the American Farm Bureau regrets that the opportunity for fairer trading rules has been set aside,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Stallman said the Farm Bureau will continue to push for enhanced market access for farm goods through regional or multilateral initiatives.
“When the opportunity presents itself, we will again support efforts to reform trade rules through the WTO process,” Stallman said.
“In the face of these talks being suspended, we will prepare to move forward with proposals to ensure that U.S. farmers have the kind of support they need to survive in today’s global trading environment.”
Backing the fight. The National Corn Growers Association
and American Soybean Association
agreed no deal was better than a bad deal, and backed the U.S. waiting until the best proposal was on the WTO table.
“We’ve said all along that [the soybean association] would not support a WTO agreement that failed to provide significant market access improvement for U.S. soybean and livestock products. As such, we’re pleased that the administration didn’t budge on its commitment to produce a robust and balanced agreement,” said Rick Ostlie, president of the soybean association.
Moving ahead. Johanns and Schwab said they intend to explore options to move the agenda forward in the coming weeks and months.
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