Just about every deadline has been missed in multilateral World Trade Organization trade talks. But U.S. Trade Ambassador Rob Portman hopes the April 30th deadline to have the final figure formulas for agricultural and market access "is taken more seriously."
"Why?" he asks. "Because we're really up to the crunch time now," he said in remarks before members of the Agribusiness Group in Washington, D.C. last week.
Portman adds that those trade negotiators who are old hands from the Uruguay Round (the WTO round before the current Doha Round) says it takes at least from the end of April until the end of the year to go through the thousands of tariff lines and make sure that we're all in agreement by year end.
He says that if negotiators miss the year-end deadline, it would risk not getting it done before the Trade Promotion Authority deadline of June 2007. Congress could pass an extension, but as Portman reminds, the track record for TPA is not good. "The last time it took us eight years to reauthorize the ability for a President to go up to the legislature with a trade agreement for a hunker-down look."
Without TPA, a WTO agreement could have a difficult time knowing when the trade agreement enters its implementation stage, Portman says.
Brazil still wants U.S. to do more in Doha Round
A delegation of congressional members recently returned from a visit with Brazilian government officials and agriculture, business and industry groups. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, led the delegation and returned with little optimism about Brazil's commitment to advance WTO talks.
"I had high hopes when we arrived that it would become clearer that progress would be made in advancing talks at the WTO. After all, time is not on our side," Grassley reminds.
Grassley explains that in discussions during the visit a recurring theme occurred, "the U.S. needs to do more." He adds, "I've come to the conclusion that this offer will never be enough for Brazil. If they really want an agreement in the WTO, they also need to bring a meaningful agricultural offer to the table that will result in increased market access in both developed and developing countries."
Grassley touched on a subject that is vital to U.S. agricultural producers and advocated by groups such as the American Soybean Association: Brazil has an advanced ag sector, but acts like a developing country when it's convenient for them.
"Brazil has really compromised their position in the Doha Round negotiations by having their feet in both camps," Grassley says.
"Unfortunately, I've heard nothing in my talks that would convince me that we're going to get any movement in April," the senator says. "I hope I'm wrong."