WTO Progress Still Hinges on Market Access

Key USTR members hold their ground in World Trade Organization talks, telling U.S. farm groups cuts won't come without increased market access.

In a speech to Farm Bureau state presidents, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab states there will be no deal in World Trade Organization trade talks without real market access. Jason Hafemeister, USTR's ag specialist on the talks, gave the same message to the National Corn Growers Association Joint Trade Policy A-Team Tuesday.

Ministers met in Geneva the last week in June. However, no real progress was made after negotiators found themselves bogged down over vast differences between proposals. The European Union and other countries wanted the United States to make deeper domestic subsidy cuts.

"It is naïve and unrealistic for other nations to expect U.S. agriculture to make real cuts in domestic supports without them also agreeing to reduce tariffs and open their markets. It has been clearly shown that the use of tariffs by other nations to protect their producers and markets is far more damaging to developing nations and the world economy as a whole than the use of domestic supports," American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement.

This week World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz wrote a letter urging President Bush to offer more concessions on U.S. agriculture. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley responded harshly to Wolfowitz' comments.

Grassley points out that several countries, particularly Brazil and India have pressured the United States to offer more. Grassley counters that Doha's alive because of the offer the U.S. put on the table in October.

He adds that he's not going to bring in a Doha "light agreement" to his committee. "What we have to do for agriculture if we're going to give up our LDPs and loan programs, is we've got to have market access. And that means that the 62% tariff that the world has against agricultural products where we have about 12%, have to very dramatically come down, and that reduction cannot be circumvented by a lot of products being listed as sensitive, so there could be exceptions to even a general reduction of tariffs," Grassley claims.

Stallman's statement expressed the lack of time facing negotiators. He explains if an agreement on specifics isn't accomplished soon, including the issues of market access, the "American Farm Bureau believes it will not be possible to finalize an agreement prior to our domestic deadlines related to trade negotiating authority."

WTO negotiators have pegged the end of July as the deadline for concluding the Doha Round talks.

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