Final Observations on WTO/Hong Kong

Date: Dec. 21, 2005
Issues: Trade

Final Observations on WTO/Hong Kong

Statement issued by Chairman Saxby Chambliss

The conclusion of the World Trade Organization Ministerial in Hong Kong leaves many questions open for farmers and ranchers in the United States. While the conference can be termed a mild success since talks did not break down, they leave many of the most important questions open for further negotiation.

After reviewing the final ministerial text, I remain disappointed that negotiators abandoned the concept of a single undertaking and isolate cotton for special treatment. As I said last week, the cotton provisions, while still under discussion, greatly complicate the negotiations and the support an eventual agreement may enjoy in Congress. I do not think it is possible to pass an agreement in the Congress that will advance cuts of one commodity above others. Disparities in the agreement will likely be rectified in the farm bill.

I remain disappointed that the European Union never put forward an ambitious proposal prior to and during the Ministerial and continued to attack food aid in order to distract the attention of negotiators from the inherent barriers to trade in the international marketplace. EU Trade Minister Mandelson remained a main obstacle to a major breakthrough in the negotiations and while the trading bloc agreed to phase out export subsidies by 2013, it simply does not go far enough. I will urge our negotiators to push the European Union for more aggressive commitments since export subsidies are a major cause of market distortions.

Despite this, Ambassador Portman and Secretary Johanns deserve our thanks and gratitude for doing a good job under very difficult circumstances. As our negotiators continue working towards a comprehensive agreement, we must move more aggressively and ensure increased market access becomes the cornerstone of the negotiations. Otherwise, farmers and ranchers at the grass roots will find it difficult to support in the end.

I look forward to working with Ambassador Portman and Secretary Johanns in the months ahead and we will have an opportunity to take stock early next year. My convictions are as strong now as they were a week ago; we cannot reform the farm safety net without first ensuring international agreements work for farmers and ranchers at home. In the end, we cannot accept a one sided agreement while sacrificing new opportunities to export our agricultural products. I remain optimistic about the Doha Round and will work towards its successful outcome.

Senator Saxby Chambliss, Chairman
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee