On June 1, 2006 the National Cotton Council joined commodity, farm and dairy organizations in a letter to President Bush urging firm resolve for ambition in market access that matched the proposed reductions in U.S. domestic support. Subsequently, 57 Senators sent a letter to the President supporting a WTO agreement that balanced market access gains and reductions in domestic support.
As the time available for reaching an agreement becomes constrained it is important that the principles against which any agreement will be measured are not forgotten. Numerous studies have established that the most meaningful tool for economic growth in the developing countries is improved market access. The United States has tabled an ambitious proposal that has substantial reductions in domestic support that must be matched with equally meaningful gains in market access.
The G-8 leadership meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia brought a renewed push to the slow moving Doha round of WTO talks. Leaders directed their trade negotiators to meet again in an attempt to reach agreement. WTO Director General Lamy scheduled meetings of the G-6 trade ministers for July 23 and 24 and again on July 29 and 30 in Geneva. U.S. negotiators continue to seek ambition in market access that has not been forthcoming from our trading partners.
U.S. Trade Ambassador Sue Schwab and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns briefed members of Congress regarding the latest efforts to move the Doha negotiations. While WTO Director General Lamy is seeking greater market access provisions from the EU and developing countries, he has also encouraged the Group of 90 developing country coalition to put pressure on the G-6 to reach agreement. Market access issues on tariff reductions and treatment of special and sensitive products continue to dominate the talks but other countries want greater concessions on reductions in domestic agricultural support by the United States.
After the briefing Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said, “I have consistently stated that I will not support WTO agreements that are not just and fair for U.S. agriculture. The U.S. proposal regarding domestic support put forth this past October was an ambitious offer and to this point has been met by nothing more than inadequate proposals from others. I continue to have concerns regarding efforts by some for isolation and 'early harvest' of cotton. In the U.S., cotton has already eliminated the Step 2 program, reformed export credits and has committed to duty free, quota free access.Additional concessions and efforts to isolate cotton are not acceptable and will meet fierce opposition. I applaud Ambassador Schwab and Secretary Johanns for their efforts on behalf of U.S. agriculture and would encourage them to settle for nothing less than an agreement that provides an increase in net income prospects for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”