EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has called on President Bush to veto any extension of the farm bill after World Trade Organization talks collapsed this week. In response, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman and his organization state it's necessary to extend the farm bill and extend trade promotion authority to keep WTO talks alive and stand against EU's attempt to make the U.S. give up more domestic support without receiving additional market access.
In a media call Thursday Stallman explained if drastic changes are made to farm bill programs, the U.S. is unilaterally disarming before reaching the negotiation table. Stallman wants a farm bill extension, of at least one year, maybe more, with some adjustments to reduce the vulnerabilities to further WTO disputes, such as the Brazil cotton case.
"The reason is clear; the negotiations are not dead," Stallman says. "Our only negotiating leverage consists of our domestic programs. Our markets and tariffs are already low."
Stallman recognizes the repercussions of the Brazil cotton case leave vulnerabilities in current farm policy. From a commodity standpoint, Stallman says corn is a top on the list, with rice a close second and soybeans also vulnerable.
The Brazil ruling found that U.S. direct payments were not green box, but amber box, because of the fruit and vegetable exclusion. Stallman says he's already in discussions with fruit and vegetable growers to somehow find a way to offset those growers while still removing that exclusion. Another finding questions the price suppression with respect on cotton. However, the parameters to classify it as "serious prejudice" are unclear and may need tweaking, he says.
"We're never completely immune to challenges, but at least less susceptible," he states.
Ongoing bilateral and regional trade negotiations will benefit from extending trade promotion authority, Stallman adds. Currently TPA is slated to expire July 1, 2007. The authority gives Congress the opportunity to vote up or down on trade agreements, allowing the President to more effectively negotiate with countries and regions.
Negotiations are underway with several countries. South Korea negotiations are ongoing, although may not be completed by July 1, because "Korean agricultural producers are very protectionist," Stallman says. Thailand is another country that holds promise for increased trade. However, with pursuing opportunities in these countries, you have to have TPA extended or renewed for successful negotiations, Stallman states.
Timeline from here
Stallman says farmers benefit from knowing as soon as possible about the future of farm policy. He says Farm Bureau members are contacting their members over the August recess to potentially co-sponsor legislation to achieve FB's goals.
With November elections, it would be difficult to pass anything yet this year. In addition, those elections could change the dynamic of Agriculture Committee leadership. Stallman maintains that agriculture always remains a non-partisan issue and that both sides of the aisle were supportive in U.S. Trade Representative's negotiating strategy in WTO talks.