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Key Trading Nations Attack U.S. Farm Bill

A group of the world's major trading powers led by Brazil and Australia slammed the new $289 billion U.S. farm bill on Tuesday, saying it contradicts the...

GENEVA — A group of the world’s major trading powers led by Brazil and Australia slammed the new $289 billion U.S. farm bill on Tuesday, saying it contradicts the aims of the Doha global trade talks to cut agricultural subsidies.

The Congress, which overrode a veto by President Bush, is pushing “agriculture policies in the wrong direction at a decisive juncture of the [World Trade Organization] Doha Round,” according to a joint statement by the G20, which also includes Argentina, China and India. “In its provisions, the farm bill will lead to larger outlays through increased thresholds for subsidies payments for 15 commodities, in contradiction with the Doha Round Mandate.”

Gein Dunn, Australia’s senior agriculture negotiator, speaking on behalf of the 19-country member Cairns Group of fair farm traders that includes Canada, Chile and South Africa, said Congress’ decision “will prolong the negative impact of distorting policies on the productivity of important agriculture and food industries.”

The Bush administration opposed the bill, saying it sent the wrong message to developing countries because it maintains and, in some cases, increases agriculture subsidies for U.S. farmers.

Responding to the latest criticism, U.S. officials said the previous law had expired and without a new one, the U.S. would revert to an older law that had even larger subsidies. The U.S. said it would amend the bill to comply with whatever terms are agreed upon in the Doha Round.