Washington Disappointed, Encouraged by Ag Negotiations
USTR Portman will return to Geneva this week for further negotiations
WASHINGTON, DC - 10/21/05 - US Trade Representative Rob Portman says he remains "discouraged" with what he views as inadequate responses to the US agriculture proposal in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations
But, he says he is "encouraged" that the proposal has at least triggered other participants to make detailed offers.
Less than nine weeks before a crucial December WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, Portman said in a recent teleconference that he was encouraged that WTO participants were finally talking about specific numbers for cutting agricultural tariffs in the negotiations, formally called the Doha Development Agenda.
He said, however, that the market-access offers made by the European Union (EU) and a group of developing countries (G-20) fell far short of expectations.
The October US proposal would reduce the allowed level of the most trade-distorting US agricultural domestic subsidies by 60% from $19.1 billion to $7.6 billion a year.
Portman said current US spending in this category, called the "amber box" by the WTO, would amount to $14 billion or more in the current year.
"We did more than was asked of us" by trading partners, Portman said.
In exchange for reducing domestic support, the US demanded substantial tariff cuts by other countries. Portman criticized the EU proposal that followed, which he said would amount to an average tariff reduction of only 24.5%, less even than the 36% cut in the 1994 agreement from the Uruguay Round of negotiations.
The EU proposal triggered protests from some EU member states, who called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers for October 18 to make sure EU negotiators do not exceed their mandate.
Portman said he believed the EU delegation would negotiate in good faith and would meet the expectations for a good market access proposal in response to the US domestic support proposal.
"This is what the Europeans asked us to do in exchange for market access," Portman said. "For them to go back on their part of the deal at this point, I think, is not something that would be in their interest or in the interest of Doha."
Besides, he said, the EU stands to gain from other parts of the negotiations on industrial tariffs, services and development - none of which can succeed without an agreement on agriculture.
The G-20 proposal likewise fell short of the level of ambition expected, he said, cutting only from each country's highest allowed level of tariffs, called bound tariff rates, not from the tariff rates actually applied.
"On market access the G-20 proposal expects too little from the developed countries like the United States and the EU and very little from developing countries," Portman said. "Frankly, it lets developing countries that are emerging economies off the hook."
Portman said he was headed back to Geneva for October 19-20 meetings on the agricultural negotiations. The December 13-18 Hong Kong ministerial aims to set the framework for completing the Doha negotiations by the end of 2006.
"There's a lot at stake, and the clock is ticking," Portman said. "Again, we made some progress this week, and the United States has made a strong offer. We await a meaningful response."
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
US Seeks Stronger Ties With Brazil
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/13/06 – Rebounding from the failure to craft a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, the Bush Administration is aiming at strengthening trade ties with Brazil in an effort to counter China’s fast-growing economic influence in Latin America; China should not only be seen as an export market with 1.3 billion consumers, but also as a nation of 1.3 billion ''new competitors,'' says US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guittierez.
US Threatens WTO Action Against China
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/10/06 – The White House is threatening to slap China with a World Trade Organization case unless Beijing responds quickly to US concerns over its lack of action on securing intellectual property rights for US products; talks on bringing the WTO case are at a ''very advanced stage,'' according to a high level official in the Office of the US trade Representative.
High Hopes for Central American Trade Pact
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/08/06 – The US -Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) still faces some hurdles, but could become a reality ''very soon,'' according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; the issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture still need to be worked through, says the former US Trade Representative following a session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.