Obstacles continue in WTO farm talks


ATHENS, Ga. – World Trade Organization negotiators, who met last week at the organization’s headquarters, have yet to advance specifics on how all nations of the world subsidize and protect their agriculture sectors.
And until all the facts are in hand, says one U.S. farm leader, any trade agreements coming out of the Doha Round will not be equitable to all farmers of the world.
Nontariff barriers. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, speaking at a conference in Georgia last week, said a lack of wealth causes poorer nations to protect their farmers with tariffs or comparable nontariff barriers rather than domestic support payments.
These and other market barriers (such as food aid, subsidized export credit and insurance, trading by state enterprises) are just as trade distorting as U.S. supports, Stallman said.
Stallman said farmers of the world should compete in a freer and fairer global market where developing countries reform their tariff subsidies as the United States addresses its domestic supports programs.
Getting to the truth. “True knowledge lies in being able to determine how other nations subsidize and protect their agriculture sectors through trade distortion. And then winning reform through negotiations,” Stallman said.
Even among countries that agree other forms of export subsidies should be disciplined, there are differences.
Some smaller developing countries argue that export subsidies should be eliminated but over a longer period of time to help them adjust to higher food import bills.
They call for stronger measures to help net food-importing developing countries and least developed countries adjust.
Cotton subcommittee. On Friday, Nov. 19, the negotiators created a subcommittee to focus on cotton as a specific issue in the agriculture talks.
A cotton initiative was originally raised by four developing nations which believe they have been damaged by cotton subsidies in richer countries. The developing countries are seeking compensation and are calling for the subsidies to be eliminated.


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