MEMPHIS – National Cotton Council Chairman Woody Anderson said today that, "the draft WTO framework document released on Friday contains many pitfalls for U.S. agriculture. From a cotton perspective, the draft is unacceptable."
Anderson was referring to a draft document prepared by the General Council of the World Trade Organization in an effort to revive the stalled Doha Round of negotiations. The draft was presented to negotiators in Geneva.
"In many ways, the Doha Round is moving backwards for U.S. agriculture," the Texas producer said. "This most recent draft document is vague and general in too many respects, except in its references to U.S. programs that are being targeted by other countries. It is too much of a one-way document that may be the final gasp of the Doha Round if it is not significantly changed. The document unfairly and unnecessarily singles out the cotton program and opens up U.S. cotton to unequal treatment and unreasonable expectations. There are no less than four specific references to cotton and at least two other indirect references.”
Meanwhile, Anderson noted, no other agricultural commodity is singled out even once in the entire document.
“It is stunning to us that the General Council of the WTO would issue such a draft and would continue to provide credence to the attempt to single out one U.S. agricultural commodity program for destruction,” Anderson said. “The target drawn on U.S. cotton will only be the first domino for U.S. agriculture if this approach is allowed to continue. The Doha Round agricultural negotiations have degenerated into a blame game, with almost every paragraph laced with efforts to punish the U.S. and exempt countries like Brazil, India and China from real changes, real increases in market access and real reforms."
Citing a recent report from Texas Tech University, Anderson said the U.S. cotton program has little impact on world cotton prices. In fact, the International Cotton Advisory Committee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both report that it is China and Brazil that are dramatically increasing cotton production as compared to 2001, while the United States has decreased production.
"Efforts in the WTO negotiations to target U.S. cotton are unfair and threaten the round," he stated. "At least the Derbez text tabled in Cancun contained formulas and gave the world an idea of which direction the negotiations were headed. This document makes little headway down the road toward a real agreement. We believe this process has swerved significantly away from the interests of the U.S."
In noting there have been several proposals with more detail than this text, Anderson said 1) the United States has signaled a willingness to be specific with respect to reductions in domestic support and 2) the European Union has committed to the elimination of export subsidies.
“What is missing is any specific statement from developing countries concerning real increases in market access,” Anderson said. “They have not put forward concrete proposals, and the process could grind to a halt as a result. "When confronted with such a vague document, it is easy for some to find good parts and a few words that support a particular position. But, when this attempt at a trade agreement is read in its entirety, it is clear it contains little in the way of equivalent commitments on market access for U.S. agriculture and takes this negotiation closer and closer to a give-away by the U.S."