The American Soybean Association (ASA) has expressed its concerns to President George W. Bush about the present situation in the Doha round World Trade Organization (WTO) agricultural negotiations.
U.S. agriculture has strongly supported the Doha round as a means of balancing the global playing field and tackling the many inequities in world agricultural markets.
"Reductions in, and limitations on, domestic support for U.S. agriculture are only acceptable if the negotiations yield an important net gain for American farmers and ranchers through commitments on market access and other trade-distorting policies by our trading partners," said ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S.D. "Reflecting this understanding, our negotiating team emphasized that the very generous U.S. offer on domestic support put forward in October 2005 was fully conditioned on achieving the U.S. proposal to increase market access for farmers and ranchers."
At this point in the negotiations, however, it seems clear that other countries have "pocketed" the U.S. offer on domestic support without being prepared to even come close to the U.S. proposal on increasing market access in both developed and developing countries. Moreover, these countries are pushing U.S. negotiators to make even greater concessions in domestic support.
"Under these circumstances, we believe that it is important to make clear that American agriculture will not support any deeper cuts in domestic support than those already proposed by the administration," Metz said. "If negotiators are forced to scale back the level of ambition from the U.S. proposal on agricultural market access in order to reach an agreement, the level of ambition in cutting trade-distorting domestic support must be commensurately reduced from the U.S. proposal."
ASA also insists that the treatment of "sensitive" products for developed countries and "special" products for developing countries must be limited in order to preserve the market access gains achieved through overall tariff reductions. The value of any tariff cut proposals will be greatly eroded by extensive exceptions for sensitive and special products. The need to achieve significant increases in market access in developing, including newly acceded, country markets is especially important because these countries, which account for 81 percent of the world’s population, represent the markets of the future.
"ASA is urging President Bush and the U.S. negotiators to insist that any WTO agricultural agreement maintain a high level of ambition and achieve significant and commercially meaningful increases in market access in both developed and developing country markets," Metz said.
"While an agreement short of the U.S. market access proposal is not our objective, any such outcome must result in commitments on domestic support commensurate with this diminished market access result.
On behalf of its 25,000 farmer-members, ASA looks forward to continuing to work with President Bush and his negotiating team to reach an agreement that farmers and ranchers will be able to support.