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The Proof’s In The Analysis


By Larry McClendon
NCC Chairman

From the outset, the U.S. agricultural community has been largely supportive of the World Trade Organization Doha agricultural negotiations, but the talks’ current path does not bode well for American farmers.

Why the emphasis on the Doha negotiations?

The National Cotton Council and other agricultural organizations have made the Doha negotiations a priority because eventually there will be a new set of international rules and obligations that most of the world, including the United States, will acknowledge. These new standards will be in place until another new agreement is reached years in the future. It is in our best interests that we get the agricultural agreement right.

Why is the Doha Round’s draft agricultural text flawed?

The text contains exactly the kind of trade-off U.S. agriculture fears. The reductions in domestic support proposed by the United States in October of 2005 have been substantially exceeded – and now call for decreases in trade distorting support of more than 66 percent and commodity specific limits on spending while ambition in market access is starkly lacking. The market access provisions, in fact, are riddled with exceptions that could easily allow a developing country to exempt most of its trade from real increases in market access. All of U.S. agriculture has stated that such large cuts in domestic support in the WTO would only be acceptable if there were real, significant gains in market access. We warned our negotiators in 2006 that other countries were pocketing U.S. proposals and demanding more cuts in agricultural support while retreating on
market access.

What has the NCC done on behalf of U.S. cotton?

The NCC joined more than 40 other U.S. agricultural organizations in letters to President Bush and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reaffirming that an acceptable Doha text must have equal ambition in domestic disciplines and increased market access. Now, we believe the International Trade Commission and USDA need to provide U.S. agriculture with a clear analysis of exactly what gains we can expect in market access from a negotiating text so riddled with loopholes. It is incumbent that our government’s negotiators demonstrate that whatever gains that have been won in market access are at least as large as the sacrifices in the safety net for U.S. producers.

Specifically, the NCC has conveyed that cotton’s market access improvement will be measured by changes in China – the only country that applied double-digit import duties on U.S. cotton exports and tightly manages its import licenses. At this point, it appears that China will have very little to do in meeting their market access commitments with regard to cotton. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of cotton products with the potential as the largest consumer of retail cotton products. It is vital to U.S. cotton’s interest that meaningful market access to China be achieved.

Larry McClendon, a Marianna, Ark., ginner, is chairman of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this page.

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