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Ag groups call for continued WTO membership

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More than 60 ag groups sign letter to Lighthizer, congressional leaders outlining support of U.S. membership in WTO.

More than 60 U.S. agricultural stakeholders are calling for continued U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization.

“U.S. membership in the WTO is essential to preserving the rules-based trading system that has paved the way for the significant growth observed in U.S. meat and poultry trade over the last few decades, with 2019 exports exceeding $19.4 billion,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “To remain competitive globally, the U.S. meat and poultry industry depends on strong, enforceable trade agreements that embrace science-based, international standards set forth by the WTO, and other standard-setting organizations. Since its inception, the WTO has helped resolve complex global trade disputes to the benefit of the entire food value chain and American consumers.”

President Donald Trump has taken aim at the World Trade Organization, blocking all appointments to its appellate body and thereby leaving it unable to resolve global trade conflicts. Earlier this month, the WTO ruled that the United States violated international regulations by imposing tariffs on more than $234 billion of Chinese exports. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the report "confirmed" Trump's policy of dismantling the trade body.

The group sent a letter to Lighthizer and leaders of the Senate Finance, House Ways & Means, and Senate and House Agriculture Committees. The letter seeks WTO reforms to enhance American agriculture’s access to foreign markets. The letter also identifies characteristics desired in the next WTO Director General, as the current search to replace outgoing Director General Roberto Azevedo enters its final stages.

"In the WTO’s first two decades overall trade in goods has nearly quadrupled, while WTO members’ import tariffs have declined by an average of 15%. Over half of world trade is now tariff-free," the letter reads. "The existing WTO rules and the day-to-day work of its committees and secretariat to provide transparency and accountability from its members remains critical to future export growth, for America’s farmers and ranchers, and the millions of American jobs – most of them off-the-farm – that are linked to and dependent upon U.S. agriculture.

"While the WTO has been beneficial for U.S. agriculture, its rules have not kept pace with changes in the global economy, and improvement is needed to hold members accountable and improve the organizations’ governance," the letter continues. "As long as exports are important to U.S. agriculture, WTO membership will be essential as well."

“U.S. agriculture needs every chance to participate in clear, rules-based global trade," said National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barb Glenn. "Departure from the World Trade Organization would be detrimental to the success of the very industry that feeds our families, and 20% of the U.S. economy.”

Signatories of the letter include: American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, Corn Refiners Association, United Fresh Produce Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, North American Meat Institute, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Wheat Associates.

Source: North American Meat Institute, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
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