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Agriculture's Chairmen Provide Principles for WTO Talks

Location: Washington, DC

Agriculture's Chairmen Provide Principles for WTO Talks

Chambliss, Goodlatte demand real market access in exchange for any domestic support reform

Senator Saxby Chambliss sent a letter along with Representative Bob Goodlatte to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman on October 6 regarding next week's negotiations on agriculture. The letter from the chairmen of the Senate and House agriculture committees is in response to the recent exchange of detailed proposals on market access and domestic support.

"We are concerned about reports of unbalanced and unreasonable negotiating demands from other countries regarding agriculture. Proposals from the European Union (EU) and others that would dramatically reduce U.S. farm support while doing little to create new trading opportunities for American producers cannot be the basis for an agreement." The letter continues, "Restoring more balance to global agricultural trade, as well as obtaining concrete new opportunities for our farmers, ranchers and food processors must result from these negotiations."

The chairmen identify four principles that will guide support for any final agreement including: 1) Substantial improvement in real market access, 2) Greater harmonization in trade-distorting domestic support, 3) Elimination of export subsidies, and 4) Greater certainty and predictability regarding WTO litigation.

"My support for an agreement in Hong Kong will be measured against the priorities we have stated on behalf of farmers and ranchers in the United States. A successful agreement is important, but it also must follow through on the promises of additional market access and a stable and predictable trade environment," said Chambliss. "Without those assurances, I cannot and will not support reductions to our domestic support programs."

Concluding their comments, the chairmen note that, "Let us caution you that the negotiations and modalities should not preempt the responsibilities and prerogatives of Congress. The agriculture negotiations can set the broad parameters of spending limits, but they should not write the next farm bill."

Portman will be in Zurich next week for a meeting of key trade ministers. The Zurich meeting will be followed by a week of meetings in Geneva which will include a meeting of ministers from the Group of 20 developing country alliance and the Five Interested Parties.

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