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WTO Agrees on Negotiating Framework

World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations were moved ahead this week in Geneva with an agreement that puts the WTO on course to open markets for agriculture, goods and services. The agreed upon framework provides structure and direction to the ongoing trade talks, which are designed to promote global economic growth and development in developed and developing countries.

“Today’s decision is a crucial step for global trade,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. “After the detour in Cancun, we have put the WTO negotiations back on track. We have laid out a map for the road ahead. Next, we will negotiate the speed limits for how far and how fast we will lower trade barriers.”

Zoellick said that 147 countries ensured, with the agreement, that 2004 will go down as a productive year for the Doha trade negotiations.

“We have agreed to make historic reforms in global agriculture trade,” he said. And we are launching negotiations on customs procedures that will cut red tape and reduce the cost of selling into some countries by as much as 15 percent.”

But not everyone sees the outcome of the negotiations as a positive.

National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson expressed disappointment with the WTO framework agreement.

"This seems to be the administration's way of accomplishing through the WTO what they could not achieve in Congress – the elimination of U.S. farm programs," Frederickson said. "Once again U.S. farmers are being asked to sacrifice on the altar of free trade without getting anything in return... Our negotiators agreed to cut domestic economic safety net programs substantially, without identifying a plan to improve economic returns to producers or even achieve the same level of specificity concerning export subsidies or market access. It also fails to address specific trade distorting competitiveness issues such as exchange rates, labor and environmental standards and the effects of concentration.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation has said the framework text will help all countries involved move forward with trade liberalization.

“The framework text adopted by the WTO General Council will continue the process of negotiation toward the goal of expanding world markets for American agriculture,” said Bob Stallmant, American Farm Bureau president. “The commitments by both developed and developing nations to substantial tariff reductions and deeper cuts from higher tariffs will lead to expanded market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”

A fact sheet describing the agreement is available at http://www.ustr.gov






Originally posted Monday, Oct. 18, 2004

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