Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to review agricultural trade negotiations during which they heard from Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick.
Chairman Goodlatte received assurances from Veneman and Zoellick that they will consult with and keep Members of the Committee fully informed of all activities related to the recent preliminary decision in the WTO trade dispute filed by Brazil against the U.S., and that they will aggressively pursue all possible appeals in this case so that the U.S. can maintain it's farm programs that were designed to be and are fully consistent with WTO obligations.
"Changes to countries' agricultural policies should come through the give and take of negotiations, not through decisions that do not appear based on WTO rules," Goodlatte said.
"World trade in agriculture is highly competitive and barriers, such as high tariffs are rampant. Countries regularly deny access for U.S. agricultural products for many reasons, including non-scientific barriers for U.S. beef, grains and fruits and vegetables. I have repeatedly said that gaining access for U.S. agricultural products is the most important objective of the ongoing WTO negotiations."
Agricultural tariffs worldwide average about 62%, while U.S. agricultural tariffs are 12%, with the overall U.S. trade deficit in 2003 at $489 billion.
With free trade negotiations beginning in Thailand , Panama , the Andean countries and Bahrain , Goodlatte encouraged the Administration to work towards initiating trade agreements with countries with larger populations that offer greater opportunities for U.S. agriculture exports.
Goodlatte also re mark ed on ongoing trade disputes, saying that U.S. agriculture depended upon exports and a vibrant trade policy.
Goodlatte continued, "Trade negotiations offer an opportunity for the United States to increase agricultural exports. U.S. goals for these negotiations are to decrease and harmonize tariffs, eliminate export subsidies and reduce and harmonize trade distorting domestic support policies."
Last year, the Committee held hearings on agricultural trade, biotechnology and on geographical indications. The Committee will continue to follow these issues. This includes ongoing multilateral trade negotiations and all regional and bilateral negotiations. It also includes oversight of past agreements, such as with China , and other accessions to the WTO, such as Russia . It means looking closely at problems U.S. agriculture faces regarding sanitary and phytosanitary issues, such as those with Australia .
On May 19 th the Committee will hold another trade hearing, with farmers and ranchers representing various farm organizations. Witness testimony will focus on their reaction to agricultural negotiations that are completed, those that are still being discussed and those that are planned.
Since becoming Chairman, Goodlatte has placed a high priority on working with the Administration to secure new agreements that will benefit farmers and ranchers.