USW Report: WTO Trade Talks Still Face Challenges

April 15, 2011 Bookmark and Share

Shannon Schlecht, Director of Policy, U.S. Wheat Associates

Editor’s note: NAWG Director of Government Affairs for Farm Policy Eric Steiner traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, last week as a guest of U.S. Wheat Associates. Following is a report on the trip from U.S. Wheat’s policy director.

Doha round negotiations are showing no sign of an immediate conclusion as the tenth year of talks continue. Last week, three representatives of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), along with 11 members from the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) conducted several meetings with key countries in Geneva to assess the current climate and express support for a balanced outcome.

Negotiators are discouraged by the lack of progress in closing gaps and it became clear last week that non-agricultural market access (NAMA) is a key hurdle for countries to overcome. While NAMA is a focus in Geneva, it was apparent that gaps remain in the services and agricultural sectors as well. The United States has clearly stated a goal of increasing the level of ambition in market access in advanced developing countries in NAMA as well as achieving clarity in agricultural access, but these talks have not resulted in a balanced agreement that satisfies the major member countries.

Member countries are at the precarious position of either submitting to failure or putting their final cards on the table to conclude the round. A successful Doha round could add $300 billion in economic gains to the world economy, which would create global demand and trade opportunities for agricultural and other goods. There is no question that wheat growers and other agricultural producers will benefit from increased demand for their products. Such prosperity will not only be realized by U.S. farmers, but also by producers in every single member country.

A concluded round would also limit trade-distorting behaviors that would provide additional benefits for U.S. and global agricultural exporters. These include the complete elimination of export subsidies and disciplines on the trade-distorting and market-disrupting behavior of export state trading enterprises, such as the Canadian Wheat Board. A reduction in bound agricultural import tariff rates, especially the average minimum reduction of 54 percent in developed countries, is a potential benefit, but the flexibility written into the market access text for developing countries blurs the market access benefits.

USW supports continued talks to narrow differences and urges similar groups around the world to voice their support to close gaps with the aim of reaching a balanced outcome that removes disruptive trade barriers and trade distorting behaviors. Trade is not a zero sum game and all member countries stand to succeed from the increased demand and economic gains that will result from bringing the round off life support and to completion.