is part of the Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

  • American Agriculturist
  • Beef Producer
  • Corn and Soybean Digest
  • Dakota Farmer
  • Delta Farm Press
  • Farm Futures
  • Farm Industry news
  • Indiana Prairie Farmer
  • Kansas Farmer
  • Michigan Farmer
  • Missouri Ruralist
  • Nebraska Farmer
  • Ohio Farmer
  • Prairie Farmer
  • Southeast Farm Press
  • Southwest Farm Press
  • The Farmer
  • Wallaces Farmer
  • Western Farm Press
  • Western Farmer Stockman
  • Wisconsin Agriculturist

Column: U.S. sets agenda for WTO September talks

Not surprisingly, among those setting out their agenda is the United States, through the United States Department of Agriculture and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In expressing the importance of these negotiations, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman said, "The future of U.S. agriculture hinges on our success in the international marketplace."

The Bush administration summarizes its goals for these negotiations based on three principles:

1. Level the playing field.

2. Eliminate barriers.

3. Grow markets.

An examination of the specific proposals shows clear strategies for achieving the first two, while it seems to be a matter of faith that if the first two are achieved, the third will take care of itself.

The elimination of export subsidies is one of the proposals aimed at leveling the playing field between the U.S. and the rest of the world, most particularly the European Union.

Export subsidies cap

The U.S. negotiators want to put a cap on export subsidies, reducing them from current caps over a period of five years. After the five years, the goal would be the elimination of all tariffs on agricultural products.

Other proposals to enhance export competition include the elimination of export monopolies (state trading enterprises), the prohibition of export taxes as a means of discouraging export of raw material and encouragement of export of processes and semi-processed products, and the establishment of specific rules governing export credit instruments.

To help improve market access and eliminate trade barriers, the U.S. trade negotiators are proposing to bring the average allowed tariff down from the current 62 percent to 15 percent with the additional requirement that no individual tariff be greater than 25 percent.

A second proposal calls for the expansion of Tariff-Rate Quotas by 20 percent. TRQs establish a quota of a product that can be imported at a lower tariff rate with any imports above that subject to the standard tariff rate. This TRQ provides a partial opening of a country's markets to exports from other countries.

Another proposal aimed at eliminating subtle barriers to U.S. products calls for "expanding trading rights to allow any interested entity to import products. This proposal is directed toward those countries with state trading agencies and provides for an alternate means by which an exporter can reach customers in another country.

Domestic support

The proposals that probably generate as much concern as any are those which deal with domestic support of agriculture. The current proposal continues to make a distinction between trade-distorting support and non-trade-distorting support.

Trade distorting support would be limited to 5 percent of the total value of agricultural production with reductions made from current caps over a five-year period.

The U.S. proposals call for "maintaining the basic criteria for non-trade distorting support." According to the Foreign Agricultural Service, "Non-trade distorting support generally consists of measures delinked from production incentives, such as food stamps, research, Extension, and disease control, and delinked direct payments. There are no caps on non-trade distorting support, as long as policies are consistent with specific criteria designed to minimize production distortions."

Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the director of UT's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298;;

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.