MEMPHIS – The National Cotton Council today praised members of the House of Representatives and Senate for their strong support for a single-undertaking approach in the upcoming World Trade Organization agriculture negotiations in Hong Kong.
NCC Chairman Woods Eastland stated that the strong showing of Congressional support indicated a continued commitment in the United States to a single undertaking in agriculture in the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
Thirty-three Representatives sent a joint letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns encouraging them to continue their opposition for an "early harvest" for cotton and urging the United States to oppose any language in the ministerial text that “would commit the Round to an outcome for cotton or other commodity that is different from those to be obtained for agriculture in general.”
Several members of the Senate sent a similar letter stating that Congress “will not support concessions on cotton without an underlying agreement on agriculture and substantial and meaningful market access commitments.”
Eastland stated that Congress was obviously reacting to grandstanding by the European Union and Oxfam International as they pursue a misguided attack on the U.S. cotton program.
“The all-out attack on the U.S. cotton program is based on faulty economics and biased analysis," Eastland said. "A divide-and-conquer approach to worldwide trade negotiations will make it more difficult to achieve progress in the Doha negotiations. Agriculture must be negotiated as a package deal. To that end, the U.S. cotton industry will support broad-based reform in agricultural trade, but we will oppose a negotiating approach and any agreement that singles out cotton for unfair, inequitable treatment.”
Both letters stated that “the" emphasis on one, rather than the whole, not only undermines support in the United States but erodes the credibility of the WTO as an instrument for global policy change.”
The Congressional letters stated that the emphasis on the U.S. cotton program was “based on economic analysis that has been repeatedly discredited by more thorough and scholarly work published by university researchers, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Monetary Fund.”
The letter, which follows statements made by other members of Congress earlier in the week, echoes the sentiments expressed by Senator Chambliss (R-GA) in a floor statement in which he described France’s position on cotton subsidies as “shameless" given that “Europe has four times the allowable level of support as the United States.”
Chambliss, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, stated that, “Calls for an early harvest on cotton are unwise. I will oppose any resolution of the cotton issue without the conclusion of an underlying agriculture agreement.”