By  on July 25, 2007

GENEVA — The U.S. gave a cold shoulder Tuesday to a draft proposal in the Doha Round global trade talks that calls for deeper cuts in cotton subsidies compared with other agriculture products.

"I do not think it's acceptable," Joseph Glauber, chief U.S. agriculture negotiator, told reporters.

Earlier, Glauber said during a closed-door World Trade Organization session of chief trade negotiators from 151 nations that the draft paper failed to take into account reductions in other areas of the farm talks, such as product-specific cuts. But he stressed the U.S. was committed to take action on cotton.

A text circulated last week by New Zealand ambassador Crawford Falconer, chairman of the agriculture segment of the Doha talks, urges much deeper cuts for cotton and reflects the demand of poor West African cotton producers Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, labeled the "Cotton 4" countries. According to estimates by agricultural trade experts, the reductions would be as high as 82 percent for cotton and could see U.S. cotton subsidies slashed by more than $1.5 billion.

Chief negotiators from other major farm exporting countries, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivities of the issue, said they doubted Washington would agree to the level of cuts suggested in the Falconer text. Trade diplomats said it will be an uphill battle for the U.S. to make the case to offer something less than what is on the table given the support for the position of the four African nations from other developing countries, antipoverty advocacy groups and international development agencies.

Benin's chief WTO envoy, Samuel Amehou, said, "This is our formula" and that the country expects an ambitious and expeditious outcome.

The Brazilian-led G20 group of developing countries, which includes India, South Africa and China, said it "fully supports" the inclusion of the Cotton-4 demands in the agriculture texts. Brazil has successfully challenged some of the U.S. farm subsidy programs before WTO dispute panels as being in breach of global rules.

Trade diplomats said a group of developing countries was likely to make a highly critical appraisal on Wednesday of the draft text to lower industrial tariffs proposed by Canadian committee chairman Don Stephenson. That plan calls for industrial tariffs, including apparel and textiles, to be around 8 or 9 percent for rich economies and between 19 and 23 percent for developing nations.Also on Tuesday, China blocked requests by the U.S. and Mexico for a dispute panel to be established to examine their complaint that it provides subsidies to enterprises prohibited under global rules. China said it believe the measures are consistent with WTO rules and said it prefers to resolve the dispute through country-to-country consultations.

However, the establishment of a panel is automatic on a second request, which is likely to come at the next meeting of the dispute settlement body, slated for Aug. 31.

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