The dispute panel held the third round of oral hearings on a complaint filed by Brazil against the U.S. cotton program and the U.S. export credit guarantee program in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Dec. 2-3 hearing was the final scheduled oral presentation that will be made to the panel. Much of the discussion continues to focus on the issue of whether the U.S. cotton program has caused "serious prejudice" to Brazil within the meaning of the applicable WTO agreements.

NCC officials said its staff continues to work closely with the USTR team, providing support on both economic and legal issues. Juan Millan from the Office of General Counsel, US Trade Representative, and Joe Glauber, deputy chief economist, USDA, are leading the U.S. defense team.

NCC Vice President for Economic and Policy Analysis Gary Adams traveled to Geneva to assist in preparation for the most recent hearing.

After opening statements by the U.S. and Brazilian delegations, the remainder of the two-day session was devoted to responding to questions from the panel. “The U.S. team remains diligent in its defense of the cotton program and is working hard to insure that the panel has a good understanding of all aspects of the US cotton program,” the NCC said.

“The U.S. team continues to address Brazil's mischaracterizations regarding the decoupled nature of support provided under the previous and current farm bill,” the Council said.

While no further oral hearings are scheduled, there will be additional written submissions in later this month and in January of 2004. The panel has indicated that no ruling in the case will be made before May. Regardless of that decision, appeals are expected, with final decisions not occurring before late summer.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com