US farmers urge EU, developing nations to end trade barriers, help WTO talks
Updated: 2005-12-13 14:52
American farmers know they will eventually lose government subsidies for
their crops but in exchange they need Europe and the developing world to give
them freer access to their markets, U.S. farm groups said Tuesday.
As World Trade Organization negotiators began haggling over how to break out
of an impasse over tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free trade, American
farmers were among many urging that the talks in Hong Kong focus on a broad
package that would open markets in both rich and poor countries to foreign goods
"What will happen if the WTO talks stop? The real concern is that we will
lose market access," Len Corzine, president of the US National Corn Growers
Association, told reporters on the sidelines of the WTO talks. "We want to have
market access for the next generation."
Talks remained deadlocked Tuesday, with developing countries blaming wealthy
nations for not making deeper cuts in their subsidies to farmers.
Most criticism has been leveled at the European Union, which has offered an
average 46 percent cut in farm tariffs but refused further concessions until
developing nations offer reductions in their trade barriers on manufactured
goods and services.
Hoping to catalyze negotiations, in October U.S. Trade Representative Rob
Portman proposed to eliminate export subsidies for U.S. farm products by 2010
and to cut by 60 percent the amount of domestic support the government provides
U.S. farmers over the next five years.
In the meantime, the EU and Japan both have proposed allowing free market
access for products from the world's least developed countries _ a move that
could prevent an outright collapse of the talks but would put off dealing with
more intractable issues.
"There are so many proposals on the table that reaching agreement on one
issue without reaching agreement on the others is probably not the best way,"
said Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute.
"I think we need to go with a package," agreed Tom Camerlo, chairman of the
U.S. Dairy Export Council. "We recognize that we will be asked to accept more
dairy imports into the U.S. and we expect bigger cuts for higher tariffs in
"We have a difficult time accessing the European market for dairy products.
The EU needs to go further," said Camerlo. Developing countries, led by Brazil
and India, need meanwhile to say what they will do to open their markets to
other types of products, he added.
"Under current trade policies, we still face significant barriers," he said.
Some American farm groups, such as the National Farmers Organization, worry
that the proposals to slash agricultural subsidies and tariffs could drive many
U.S. farms and ranches out of business. The group says corn and soybean farmers
would be hit especially hard.
American consumers, however, would stand to benefit, as lower tariffs mean
lower prices on food imports such as butter, milk, cuts of meat and many other
products that are now priced higher because of prohibitive tariffs.
Government backing is woven into the industry _ lenders and producers alike
plan accordingly, said Dean Kleckner, former president of the American Farm
But Kleckner, an Iowan corn, soy and hog farmer, and many others industry say
they recognize that the days of hefty government support for the agriculture
industry are numbered.
"We are building up to the idea that subsidies are going to be lower,"