Leading agricultural groups wrote a letter to President Bush outlining concerns with the present situation in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization agricultural negotiations. Top on the list is the need to negotiate greater market access without digging deeper into proposed farm subsidy cuts.
The letter, signed by 12 agriculture industry organizations, was in response to European Union countries in the WTO rejecting the U.S. proposal put forth in October and pushing for even greater cuts in U.S. domestic support. Earlier this week reports revealed that the Bush administration may be pushing for domestic cuts as much as 70%, up from the 60% proposed in October 2005.
The letter states, "Reductions in, and limitations on, domestic support for U.S. agriculture are only acceptable if the negotiations yield an important net gain for American farmers and ranchers through commitments on market access and other trade-distorting policies by our trading partners.
"At this point in the negotiations, however, it seems clear that other countries have 'pocketed' the U.S. offer on domestic support without being prepared to even come close to the U.S. proposal on increasing market access in both developed and developing countries. Moreover, these countries are pushing U.S. negotiators to make even greater concessions in domestic support," the groups go on to write.
American Soybean Association President Bob Metz says, "Under these circumstances, we believe that it is important to make clear that American agriculture will not support any deeper cuts in domestic support than those already proposed by the administration. If negotiators are forced to scale back the level of ambition from the U.S. proposal on agricultural market access in order to reach an agreement, the level of ambition in cutting trade-distorting domestic support must be commensurately reduced from the U.S. proposal."
The groups also insist that the treatment of "sensitive" products for developed countries and "special" products for developing countries must be limited in order to preserve the market access gains achieved through overall tariff reductions. The value of any tariff cut proposals will be greatly eroded by extensive exceptions for sensitive and special products. The need to achieve significant increases in market access in developing, including newly acceded, country markets is especially important because these countries, which account for 81% of the world's population, represent the markets of the future.
Some negotiators have discussed a "Doha lite," or less ambitious trade proposal. "While an agreement short of the U.S. market access proposal is not our objective, any such outcome must result in commitments on domestic support commensurate with this diminished market access result," the groups write President Bush.
The following groups signed the letter: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugar Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Milk Producers Federation, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, US Canola Association and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee.