ASA Outlines Core Objectives for WTO Agricultural Negotiations

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has joined with other producer groups at a press conference in Washington, D.C., to outline details of what they call the "three pillars" — market access, domestic support and export competition — of successful U.S. trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial that will be held in Cancun, Mexico.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sugar Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Grain Sorghum Producers, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, U.S. Canola Association, USA Rice Federation, and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee also participated in the conference.

"ASA's support for any final agreement will depend on whether specific objectives are achieved within and between the principal areas of the negotiations," said ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, Iowa.

ASA has supported the goals of the Doha mandate, and the direction of the U.S. negotiating position on agriculture, but has stated that the value of any final agreement to U.S. soybean farmers will depend on many details yet to be negotiated. ASA will have a delegation of leaders and staff representing U.S. soybean producers at the Ministerial in Cancun.

"The degree to which ASA members will support reductions in trade-distorting domestic programs is dependent on the degree to which market access is improved in both developed and developing countries," Heck said. "Similarly, the degree to which U.S. producers will support reductions in trade-distorting domestic support is dependent on whether developing countries that are major agricultural exporters agree to accept similar disciplines on their own trade-distorting credit, investment, and tax subsidies."

The U.S. farmer-leaders agreed that market access is the critical element of the Ministerial negotiations. Any final agreement must harmonize tariffs and substantially improve market access for U.S. agricultural exports in both developed and developing countries. Peak tariffs must be capped and reduced over time.

"Most of the growth in future demand for agricultural products will occur in developing countries," Heck said. "For this reason, developing countries must also make substantial improvements in market access and not be allowed to exempt 'special products' from required tariff reductions or increases in Tariff Rate Quotas."

At the press conference, the U.S. producer group leaders said that domestic support disciplines must be applied consistently to both developed and developing countries that are major agricultural exporters, and that developing countries who are net food exporters must not be allowed to be exempt from production, marketing, risk management and transportation disciplines, or other subsidies that developed countries must discipline.

"Countries providing higher levels of trade distorting subsidies must be required to make larger reductions in those support programs," Heck said. "And expenditures for non-trade distorting policies must not be subject to limits or caps."

In the area of export competition, the groups agree that export subsidies and similar trade-distorting policies like State Trading Enterprises and export monopolies must be eliminated in a timely manner.

In addition, Heck said that "parallel" treatment of export subsidies and export credits is inconsistent with the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and core U.S. negotiating objectives for the Doha Round. It also results in inequitable treatment among commodities when applied on a product-by-product basis. Such "parallelism" must be avoided in favor of a rules-based approach to export credits.

"The terms for loan repayment under the U.S. export credit guarantee program must be sufficient to maintain participation by net-food importers in developing countries, and U.S. food aid programs must continue to provide U.S. agricultural commodities and products to food-deficit countries," Heck said.

ASA is a trade group representing 26,000 U.S. soybean farmers. Soybeans were planted on 28 percent of the United States' cropland this year, and are the highest value U.S. agricultural commodity export. Half the value of the $15 billion U.S. soybean crop is exported each year as whole soybeans, as processed soybean meal and soybean oil, or in the form of value-added foods such as pork, poultry, dairy and fish products.