US farm groups oppose compromise over world trade deal

02 Jun 2007


Mumbai: US farm groups have warned the Bush administration against compromising on farmers'' interests as trade negotiators push intensely to broker a new world trade deal under the Doha Round.

The warning came even as the European Union and the United States tried to pave the way for a breakthrough in global trade talks nearing a potentially make-or-break phase.

EU trade and farm commissioners Peter Mandelson and Mariann Fischer Boel met US trade representative Susan Schwab and agriculture secretary Mike Johanns in Brussels for preparatory talks ahead of a meeting among key WTO members - the EU, US, Brazil and India - in mid-June.

"Reductions in, and limitations on, US domestic support can only be justified if they yield an important net gain for American farmers and ranchers," a coalition of 13 farm groups said in a letter to US trade representative Susan Schwab.

The farm groups, whose members receive billions of dollars in subsidies from the US agriculture department, see net gains in the WTO''s Doha round only if other countries commit to lowering tariffs and shelving policies that inhibit trade.

The US, the EU, India and Brazil are now intensifying efforts to reach a deal by year''s end. If the deadline is not met, some observers warn, the talks could drift for years.

"The negotiations have been characterised by escalating demands for significant new US concessions on domestic support while our trading partners in both developed and developing countries have clung tenaciously to positions," the letter continued.

A deal that fails to gain access to new markets would be an "unacceptable result," the farm groups said.

The missive was signed by associations representing US soybean, corn, sugar, cotton, milk, wheat and other industries.

This month''s meeting, scheduled for June 19-22, is seen as decisive for the fate of the WTO''s Doha round of free trade negotiations.

The round was launched in 2001 to boost the world economy and help poor countries in reduce poverty by exporting more.

But the talks have missed several deadlines. If the G4 can reconcile their differences over cutting barriers to farm and manufactured goods trade, that could allow a wider deal involving the WTO''s full 150 member countries before August.

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