WTO negotiations still hung upon agricultural market access

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WASHINGTON – How many times can a presidential adviser say the word “bold” when discussing the latest push in agricultural negotiations within the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round?
Seven in two minutes. If you were counting.
“What the president has made is a bold proposal and what we’re looking for is a bold proposal back,” said National Security Advisor Steve Hadley during a media briefing June 22 in Budapest, Hungary.
Negotiators are still waiting.
The Doha Round, launched in 2001, is stalled over agricultural trade issues, especially market access.
Bush proposal. To get the negotiations going at the ministerial meeting set to begin June 29 in Geneva, President Bush tendered a proposal with respect to tariffs, specifically tariffs in the agricultural area and trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, Hadley said.
The U.S. proposal is conditional on other countries offering new market access for U.S. exports through tariff cuts.
The U.S. maintains tariff cuts proposed by the European Union would not increase market access, and the EU would still be allowed to spend on domestic support above the level allowed to the United States.
E.U., U.S. stalemate. But after a week of pre-ministerial meeting agricultural negotiations, participants remain far apart on market access, according to Jason Hafemeister, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative.
“Without market access, we don’t deliver on the Doha promise,” Hafemeister said in Geneva June 16. “Without market access, we don’t create the gains from trade.”
Lawmakers not happy. Legislators aren’t happy with the latest rhetoric they’re hearing from the White House.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking Democrat on the House Ag Committee, blasted the current negotiations, saying, “… it appears that President Bush is now negotiating with himself.
“After first offering cuts of more than 60 percent to our farm programs, the president is now suggesting he’ll go even further.”
Peterson said the administration is “sacrificing” U.S. farm support.
In the Senate, Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, led an effort keep market access a focal point in the WTO negotiations. More than 50 Senators signed a letter to President Bush to express concerns about the current negotiations’ direction.
“A failure of the WTO negotiations to achieve an ambitious outcome on market access will hurt not only U.S. agriculture, but also the global economy and people around the world,” the senators wrote in the June 23 letter.
In addition to the ministerial meeting this week, a full WTO General Council meeting is scheduled the last week of July.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

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