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Laws: Moran, Emerson ruffle EU negotiator’s feathers

Many Americans went to Disney World (I know, I was one of them) or some other resort location during spring break. Reps. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., spent theirs annoying the WTO.

Moran is chairman of the House Agriculture General Commodities Subcommittee, which means he will get first shot at re-writing the commodity title of the 2007 farm bill. Emerson is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Moran was one of the first to report WTO negotiators were likely to miss the April 30 deadline for reaching an agreement on modalities in the Doha Round following meetings with the U.S. Trade Representative’s staff in Geneva.

“We have had a series of discussions about where we are,” Moran said. “It is clear to me that the April 30 deadline will come and go without significant agreement.”

Moran said he and Emerson reiterated to U.S. negotiators that farmers and members of Congress would not accept a Doha Round agreement that does not increase access to potential markets for U.S. crops. He also sees no need to delay the next farm bill.

“The farm bill should be written by the United States Congress and an extension is not required for the purposes of the WTO,” Moran said. “I think it is important that the House and Senate committees proceed with that plan to produce a 2007 farm bill.”

Moran told U.S. negotiators and ambassadors from other countries that the U.S. proposal tabled by USTR Rob Portman last November was “more than generous.” Portman offered to cut U.S. farm subsidies by 60 percent to try to get the European Union and others to reduce their agricultural tariffs.

Those remarks reportedly upset EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who said the proposal masks U.S. plans to target developing countries’ markets for U.S. farm products.

“U.S. officials have not put any reforms in place — not a dime, not a dollar,” said Mandelson. “What the United States is currently demanding is not acceptable to most WTO members. The U.S. demands would make farming in Europe impossible to sustain and would hurt poor countries, too.”

Moran agreed the U.S. proposal is not set in stone and that it could be withdrawn or scaled down due to higher energy prices and because the European Union continues to keep out U.S. commodities over non-tariff issues such as genetically modified foods.

Emerson, the Missouri Bootheel’s representative, said U.S. farmers “are very nervous that the United States would unilaterally disarm and allow our farm bill to be written to suit the WTO as opposed to what’s best for our farmers.”

Unlike Moran, Emerson supports extending the current farm bill one to two years. Since their press conference, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he could support a farm bill rollover — if the president’s trade promotion authority is also extended.

Moran and Emerson’s feather ruffling helped show the EU that Congress won’t automatically accept any last-moment deals just to complete the Doha Round.

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