WTO Ag Agreement Must Be Single Undertaking; Provide Meaningful Benefits to Farmers

The NCC told a Senate panel that for a WTO agricultural agreement to be a positive, it must provide meaningful benefits to farmers and agribusinesses in return for any concessions.

September 21, 2005
Contact: Marjory Walker
(901) 274-9030

WASHINGTON, DC - The National Cotton Council (NCC) told a Senate panel today that for a World Trade Organization agricultural agreement to be a positive, it must provide meaningful benefits to farmers and agribusinesses in return for any concessions and that the U.S. cotton industry is committed to continue working with the Congress and the Administration to find solutions and to support balanced and fair agreements.

NCC Vice Chairman Allen Helms, Jr., told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, chaired by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), “The U.S. cotton industry is fully prepared to work toward an overall, beneficial agricultural agreement. But, we will oppose any agreement that singles out cotton for unfair treatment.” Helms said agriculture negotiations must be part of a single undertaking, comprehensive negotiation and that “China, India and Pakistan must also be full participants in the negotiations.”

The Clarkedale, Ark, cotton producer, who was welcomed by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), emphasized in his testimony that efforts to single out cotton for special treatment “have been misguided, have undermined support by cotton farmers and threaten the overall Doha negotiations.”

In providing the committee with the NCC’s priorities for the Doha Round, Helms noted that:

1) it is critical that real market access increases be obtained.

“For example, China is applying a new sliding scale tariff to imports of cotton,” Helms said. “It is clearly designed to favor domestically produced cotton and synthetic fibers. It limits our ability to sell product there and encourages the use of man-made fibers by textile mills. This is not just a problem for U.S. farmers; it is a problem for African, Australian and other cotton producers and exporters.”

2) special and differential treatment must be provided to the truly less developed countries but there must be differentiation between the truly less developed countries and those countries that are classified as developing but are highly competitive in world markets -- because under the current self-determination system Brazil can insist on the same treatment as Mali.

3) a better job must be done of ensuring the language in the final agreement accurately reflects the intent of the parties.

4) it should be recognized that WTO agreements can have significant impact on the U.S. government’s ability to construct effective domestic agricultural policy, so Congress and the private sector must be fully informed as the negotiations progress.

5) the Doha Round agreement must appropriately protect countries that comply with the agricultural agreement from unexpected challenges under the Subsidies Code.

“Domestic farm programs that are structured to comply with a new Agricultural Agreement should not be undermined by Subsidies Code challenges that cannot be anticipated by Congress,” Helms said.