Doha Talks Suspended, Castigations Fly

The DOHA WTO negotiations were suspended after the G-6 countries (U.S., EU, Brazil, Australia, Japan and India) couldn't progress on market access and reductions in domestic support.

Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organization (WTO) director general, suspended the Doha WTO negotiations after failure to reach agreement on the issues of domestic support and market access for ag. In announcing the suspension of talks, Lamy said, "If the political will really exists, there must be a way. But it is not here today. And let me be clear: There are no winners and losers in this assembly. Today there are only losers."

The negotiations were suspended after the G-6 countries (U.S., EU, Brazil, Australia, Japan and India) couldn't progress on market access and reductions in domestic support. Lamy said he wouldn't resume negotiations until "the conditions exist to permit renewed progress and this means changes in entrenched positions."

The finger-pointing has begun between the U.S., EU, and others. In reaction to the EU's statement that the U.S. had failed to "show flexibility" in the Doha ag negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said, "Unable to endorse the U.S. proposal given substantial opposition from France and a few other member states with strong farm interests, the EU attempted, alternately, to criticize the U.S. proposal as too ambitious or too weak. Most recently, the EU attacked the U.S. for failing to propose even more dramatic cuts to domestic support while at the same time insisting on the right to lavish more than twice as much trade-distorting subsidies on its farmers."

Meanwhile, the reaction of U.S. ag and Congressional leaders to suspended WTO talks was one of disappointment but supportive of the Administration for backing away from a bad deal.

"U.S. cattlemen don't receive domestic supports," explains Gregg Doud, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) chief economist. "Therefore, meaningful market access and lower tariffs around the world are the best ways to increase opportunities for U.S. beef producers in international markets."

He blames protectionist policies by European Union (EU) member states for the collapse, saying EU posturing denied U.S. cattlemen access and the opportunity to grow demand for their products overseas.

"The fact the EU isn't interested in providing anyone, including the U.S., additional access into their market smacks of pure protectionism," Doud says. "It's what we fought against in the Uruguay Round, it's the reason U.S. beef is locked out of the EU."

Doud says revisiting the trade negotiations serves no purpose until the EU delivers a meaningful ag-market access and tariff reduction proposal. He says protectionism was the reason the European Common Ag Policy concept was established decades ago. He also commended the U.S. negotiating team for putting forth a bold proposal he says would have benefited producers and consumers worldwide.

"We're already re-evaluating our trade priorities and agenda," Doud says. "At the least, we'll work aggressively to renew Trade Promotion Authority so we can work to reduce trade barriers and gain better international access for U.S. beef via new free-trade agreements one country at a time."

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Ag Committee chairman, said, "The U.S. was asked to come up with a bold proposal to significantly reduce domestic supports and our proposal did just that. Yet, our trading partners refused to even meet us part way. As disappointing as the result may be, from the standpoint of America's farmers and ranchers, no deal is better than a bad deal."

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee said, "The U.S. made a generous proposal for other countries last fall, particularly the EU, to reduce their trade barriers as we scale back our trade-distorting farm payments. The ball has been in the EU's court to make a reasonable offer, yet they haven't done so, leading to a suspension of the negotiations in the Doha Round."

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in a statement said, "We are pleased the U.S. didn't succumb to pressure from India, the EU and other trading partners who want a Doha 'lite' deal."

The American Soybean Association (ASA) said, "ASA is disappointed WTO negotiators were unable to agree to meaningful trade reforms that would level the global playing field for U.S. agriculture exports. But we've said all along ASA would not support a WTO agreement that failed to provide significant market access improvement for U.S. soybean and livestock products. We're pleased the Administration didn't budge on its commitment to produce a robust and balanced agreement."

The American Farm Bureau Federation in a statement said, "It's truly unfortunate other nations failed to seize this Doha Round opportunity for freer trade created by the bold agl proposal offered by the U.S. negotiators."

And the National Farmers Union said, "From the U.S. ag producer perspective, there was great fear the trade round would severely tie the hands of the U.S. government as it attempts to address the challenges facing rural America. We will continue to urge U.S. and global policymakers to only pursue trade agreements that create a fair and level playing field for producers at home and abroad."
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington correspondent; and Clint Peck

TAGS: Exports