Ag Committee Sends Strong Doha Signal

July 19, 2008

Talks in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have collapsed again because Brazil, China, and India were unwilling to bend.

Despite a powerful letter from 17 of the 21 members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a clear message from the agricultural community, U.S. trade negotiators offered even more concessions in Geneva. Luckily, Brazil, China and India were unwilling to accept the overly generous offer by U.S. negotiators.

The text of this letter, sent just before the most recent talks began in Geneva, can be viewed below:

July 18, 2008

The Honorable Susan Schwab
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508

Dear Ambassador Schwab:

As you prepare for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting next week, we want to express our keen interest in the negotiations. Unfortunately our trading partners up until now have not committed to a balanced outcome involving an ambitious result in market access. Reductions in trade-distorting domestic support must be accompanied by real market access gains that are comparable in magnitude and will provide net gains for U.S. agriculture. Anything less will not receive our support.

The October 2005 proposal put forward by the United States would require substantial cuts in U.S. farm programs. These reductions in domestic support were carefully calibrated in relation to market access gains. However, many of our trading partners continue to call for greater cuts in U.S. farm programs while refusing to make significant tariff reductions. The provisions of the most recent text on sensitive products, special products, the proposed new special safeguard mechanism (SSM) and exceptions for recently acceded members do not inspire much confidence that a balanced agreement can be reached.

Twice before, the United States rightly rejected an unbalanced framework agreement and opted instead to continue discussions towards achieving a comprehensive result that will generate new trade flows. Discussion in Geneva must fulfill the underlying mandate of the Round to foster development, yet this objective need not and cannot be an exercise in which developed countries like the United States accept an unbalanced outcome. Neither U.S. agriculture nor individual commodities should have to shoulder an unfair burden of the negotiations. If you are presented with an unbalanced text, we urge you to reject it in favor of continued negotiations.

Very truly yours,

Tom Harkin
Saxby Chambliss
Patrick Leahy
Pat Roberts
Kent Conrad
Thad Cochran
Max Baucus
Lindsey Graham
Blanche Lincoln
Norm Coleman
Debbie Stabenow
Mike Crapo
E. Benjamin Nelson
John Thune
Ken Salazar
Amy Klobuchar
Robert Casey, Jr.