Committee to Hold Hearing on the Status of the WTO Negotiations on Agriculture: Hearing First in a Series Related to Trade

May 12, 2003

Hearing First in a Series Related to Trade

Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on May 21, 2003 at 10:00 a.m. to receive testimony on the current status of World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick are scheduled to testify before the Committee.

The Committee will hear from the Administration on the issues surrounding WTO Agriculture negotiations and Chairman Stuart Harbinson's paper, and if this draft, created from proposals of 121 WTO Member countries, will be the focus of discussions as the negotiations move toward the World Trade Organization Fifth Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, scheduled for this September. Since the Harbinson paper was not agreed to by WTO Members by the March 31 deadline, it is expected that work will continue this summer in the hopes of coming to an agreement on tariff, domestic support and export subsidy issues prior to Cancun.

The hearing later this month is part of a series of upcoming hearings related to trade. In June the Committee will hear from several organizations representing farmers and ranchers across the United States in order to get their perspective on ongoing negotiations and trade agreements which will have a significant impact on U.S. agricultural producers.

Currently, agricultural tariffs around the world average 62 percent while U.S. agricultural tariffs average 12 percent. The EU is the largest user of trade distorting domestic support and is allowed to spend over $60 billion per year while the U.S. is allowed $19 billion. Additionally, the EU uses over 90 percent of the world’s export subsidies.

While the March 31, 2003 deadline expressed in the Doha Development Agenda for adopting modalities for reduction commitments passed without agreement, it is expected that the Cancun Meeting will help move the process forward.

“It is anticipated that Mr. Stenholm and I will lead a delegation of Agriculture Committee Members to the Ministerial meetings in Cancun,” Chairman Goodlatte said. “These negotiations are critical to the future of U.S. agricultural trade. We want to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers are protected and given a voice at the table.

“It is imperative that the inequities of the past be dealt with during the course of these negotiations. America’s farmers and ranchers can compete with any other farmer in the world when given a fair playing field, but they cannot compete when foreign governments implement unjust trading practices. The United States must hold firm to its proposal to harmonize tariffs, reduce and harmonize trade distorting domestic support and eliminate export subsidies.

“In a speech to the Future Farmers of America, President Bush said that agriculture is the ‘cornerstone of our international trade negotiations.’ I agree with President Bush and look forward to hearing from Ambassador Zoellick and Secretary Veneman at the upcoming hearing and working with them to make sure that the best interests of American agriculture are represented during these negotiations.”

“We are at a critical stage in the WTO Doha Round negotiations,” said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm. “While the United States has offered meaningful reform in the rules that govern agricultural trade, it is now up to Europe to move in the same direction by reforming its Common Agricultural Policy and engaging in meaningful discussions to reduce agricultural subsidies and protectionism. Without significant changes in agriculture, I have little hope for the Doha Round."