Hong Kong Won't Bring Defeat or Victory

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Ag Secretary Mike Johanns say December ministerial meeting won't bring framework aspirations. Jacqui Fatka 

Published on: Nov 9, 2005

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman says world trade ministers haven't made enough progress to bring forth a solid framework to the upcoming Dec. 13-15 ministerial meetings in Hong Kong.

Portman says the Hong Kong meeting will still go on as planned. "Hong Kong was never meant to be the end." But rather an important juncture to take stock of where we are, he adds. "But, I don’t think we'll complete our framework aspirations."

Many say all of 2006 is needed to work out the fine details of a trade agreement, while a broad framework is needed at the end of 2005 to facilitate the forward movement. For rewriting U.S. farm policy, it also allows Congress to implement potential WTO needed changes in domestic policy during the writing of the 2007 Farm Bill.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns explains there is still plenty of time to get an ambitious successful round during 2006 before Trade Promotion Authority expires. TPA gives Congress the ability to vote up or down on trade deals with no room for amendments.

Johanns also reminds that "no one is claiming that we're going to sit down and write the next farm bill in Hong Kong." But with 27% of income relative to agriculture coming from trade, it's inevitable to pay attention to WTO commitments.

The past three days Portman, along with Johanns, met with leaders in London and then Geneva to discuss moving forward on other areas of the Doha round to bring more success to Hong Kong. Many countries are unwilling to move forward on services and non-agricultural market access issues until agriculture is pinned down. Europe is the opposite, and won't give concessions on agriculture until other sectors progress.

Tables have turned the focus from domestic support to market access after the United States offered to give up 60% of the most trade-distorting subsidies. To read more about this, see additional coverage on this Web site.