GENEVA — Trade and agriculture ministers from developing nations, led by South Africa, India and Brazil, renewed their criticism on Thursday that the Bush administration is impeding the Doha global trade talks over slashing farm subsidies, especially on cotton.
“The U.S. is the biggest subsidizer of the cotton sector; it is very disturbing and worrying for us that the U.S. has rejected the draft text of the [agriculture] chairman [Crawford Falconer of New Zealand] of addressing the distortions in the cotton sector,” Lulama Xingwana, South Africa’s minister of agriculture, told reporters. “We have not seen any proposal or alternative that has come from the U.S. on how it will approach the cotton distortions. It is a matter of grave concern to us.”
The U.S. has rejected terms proposed in July that recommended an 82 percent cut in cotton subsidies. Kamal Nath, India’s minister for commerce and industry, said cotton is a make or break issue for the talks.
“Without a resolution on cotton, there cannot be a resolution in agriculture,” Nath said at the end of a meeting of ministers and senior officials from the influential G20 group, which includes Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa.
“Any attempt to put the blame on the difficulties in the negotiations on developing countries is misplaced,” said Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister. “After all, this is an agricultural round, and we have to see what happens in agriculture in order to make our own moves in other areas.”
Ministers from the developing nations again stressed that what they are prepared to offer in lowering tariffs on industrial goods, which includes textiles and apparel, would be proportionate to what they receive in agriculture from rich countries.
The group also chided Washington for its refusal to extend President Bush’s trade promotion authority, which gives him the power to negotiate trade deals without amendments from Congress. That authority expired in June.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.