The recent negotiations on agriculture at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, will directly benefit U.S. commodity producers by giving them greater access to international markets, according to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.
What was achieved in this latest series of talks, Veneman said, is the agreement to continue negotiations for greater market access, to reduce and phase out export subsidies, and to reduce trade-distorting domestic support.
Veneman attended the WTO meetings in Doha, which began Nov. 9, to help farmers and ranchers in the United States gain more access to new customers.
“The best way to expand market access for agriculture and other sectors of the economy is through global negotiations conducted within the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO),” Veneman said. “These meetings hold great promise to help American farmers and ranchers gain access to more markets for their products around the world.
“We have an agreement that will allow us to negotiate on our three pillars — market access, domestic supports and, most importantly, export subsidies. Europe uses 70 times more export subsides than we do in the United States, so this is a significant agreement that will give us the opportunity to level the playing field,” she said at a press conference shortly after her return from Doha.
“It's a great victory that we were able to come away from Doha with the launch of a round. It's a great victory for America's farmers and ranchers. In agriculture, we are going to be able to build upon the success that we achieved in the Uruguay Round, to have a greater opportunity for our farmers and ranchers to participate in a global marketplace.”
What was achieved in the Uruguay Round, Veneman said, will be used as a building block for this next round of trade negotiations. Those Uruguay Round accomplishments Veneman refers to include a market access agreement which turned all non-tariff barriers into tariff equivalents, negotiated reductions in export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic supports, and an agreement that regulations must be based on sound science and cannot be used as trade barriers.
“One thing a trade agreement can do well is bring economic growth and prosperity to all parts of the world, and as developing countries grow, one of the first things they buy is more food,” Veneman said. “That is significant because the developing world and those countries that are coming into the emerging middle class give us the greatest opportunity for marketing our food and agriculture products in this country.”
The recent trade talks in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar also produced some non-agriculture-specific agreements, including one that tightens environmental standards. “This agreement says that the rules of trade of the WTO will be integrated with environmental agreements which are not now subject to trade rules,” Veneman said.
“We were successful in precluding the Europeans from including the precautionary principle in the trade agreement. That principle could have undermined the whole sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, allowing countries to undermine sound science by taking an action in the interest of precaution,” she said.
In addition, the recent trade talks included the entry of China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization. This, Veneman said, could provide $2.5 billion annual in additional agriculture export sales from the United States.
“It's very important that China, the largest country in the world by population, is now a member of the WTO. It brings China under the rules of the WTO, so that if we have a dispute with China we are able to take them to the WTO and get that dispute resolved,” Veneman said. “We export so much more than we produce in this country, and we must have access to the international marketplace if we are going to continue to be successful as a producing nation.”