Senators Urge USTR to Reject Destructive Cotton Language
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, joined with nine of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate urging U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to reject language regarding cotton in a draft text put forward by WTO agriculture negotiations Chairman Crawford Falconer, released in July, which would adversely impact the U.S. cotton industry.
Text of the letter is below:
September 20, 2007
The Honorable Susan Schwab
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508
Dear Ambassador Schwab:
The ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round negotiations are extremely important to the ability of U.S. agriculture to compete in the global marketplace. Lowering barriers to trade will not only help farmers and ranchers reach new markets around the world, but at the same time assist developing countries sustain growing economies. As your negotiating team continues a series of talks in Geneva, it is important we bring to your attention a matter of importance and sensitivity.
As you know, in July, Ambassador Falconer released a draft text including language regarding cotton which is opposed by the United States. While the overall text is the subject of ongoing negotiations, the treatment of cotton is unique and assumes a consensus opinion where there is none. Furthermore, the language ignores how best to address the underlying issue and help producers in four West African countries. While we acknowledge the need to address this challenge with sincere and significant efforts, Ambassador Falconer erred by failing to bracket the language.
Nowhere is there mention of the underlying distortions in the international cotton market and the efforts the United States has made and continues to make with initiatives such as the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Simply stated, the cotton language in the Falconer text is beyond the limit by which we can support an eventual Doha Agreement in the Senate.
While the benefits of a comprehensive and multilateral agreement are great, we cannot abandon a group of farmers who have operated within the parameters of a program written to comply with the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and the status of which continues to be adjudicated in the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. Treating cotton differently than all other agriculture products in the Doha Negotiations will further erode support in the U.S. Congress for the WTO and the Administration's trade agenda.
If the cotton text in the Falconer paper does not change significantly, we will have no other choice but to vote against the Doha Agreement should it come before us for debate. Furthermore, if the Administration fails to address our concerns, support for trade promotion authority in the future will be severely compromised.
Thank you for your attention and please do not hesitate to contact us should you need to discuss this matter further.
Very truly yours,
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)
U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.).
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.)