Committee Holds Hearing on Status of WTO Negotiations on Agriculture: Goodlatte Says, ‘The Voices of America’s Farmers and Ranchers Must be Heard in the WTO Negotiations’

May 21, 2003

Goodlatte Says, ‘The Voices of America’s Farmers and Ranchers Must be Heard in the WTO Negotiations’

Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing on the current status of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on agriculture, the wide range of positions taken by other countries in these negotiations and efforts to reach a consensus on agriculture reform in the WTO.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick testified before the Committee.

In his opening statement Chairman Goodlatte said, “For American farmers and ranchers, trade is an essential part of their livelihood…The WTO negotiations offer an opportunity for the United States to increase agricultural exports…It is essential that the voices of America’s farmers and ranchers are heard in the WTO negotiations and that U.S. agriculture is a full partner in all negotiations.”

In November 2001, the World Trade Organization Fourth Ministerial in Doha provided the timetable for worldwide trade negotiations on a variety of subjects, including agriculture. WTO agricultural negotiations actually began earlier, in 2000, in accord with the Uruguay Round Agreement, and then continued under the Doha Declaration.

“If the Doha Round is going to be successful, the European Union is going to have to reform its Common Agricultural Policy,” said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm. “With regard to multilateral trade rules, Ambassador Zoelick has correctly pointed out that agriculture is 50 years behind the industrial sector, and I look forward to working with him and Chairman Goodlatte to reverse this situation.”

The United States’ stated goal of these negotiations is to establish market-oriented trading system that is fair, builds on strong rules with specific commitments on government support to agriculture and for countries to reach agreement by January 1, 2005. The United States first submitted its proposal for comprehensive long-term agricultural trade reform in June 2000, and then in June 2002, announced specific levels of reduction in the areas of market access, export subsides and domestic support. The United States was one of the few governments to submit a comprehensive proposal and on a timely basis. The U.S. proposal was aimed at leveling the playing field through harmonization of tariffs and domestic support and elimination of export subsidies.

The March 31, 2003 deadline, expressed in the Doha Development Agenda, for adopting the reduction commitments passed without any agreement on proceeding with negotiations. However, it is anticipated that the WTO Fifth Ministerial, to take place in Mexico in September 2003, will help move the negotiating process forward.

Chairman Goodlatte and ranking member Stenholm will likely lead a delegation of Agriculture Committee Members to the Ministerial meetings in Cancun.

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.

The Committee is also scheduled to have a hearing on June 18th during which they 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.