U.S. Ag to USTR: Defend U.S. Agriculture at WTO Ministerial Meeting

Dec 08, 2017
Meetings next week
 Buenos Aires-travel-poster
WASHINGTON, DC – While the media’s trade attention is on the U.S.-China trade deficit or efforts to modernize the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO) is set to hold its 11th Ministerial Meeting next week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Ministerials happen every two years and are important because they chart the course and work plan of the organization. 

USA Rice and many U.S. commodity groups sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer Thursday, urging a strong U.S. stand at the Ministerial in the areas of domestic agricultural support, public stockholding, and dispute settlement.

“We’ve seen a weakening in the past two Ministerials in the WTO’s resolve to hold major agricultural producers to their domestic support obligations while rhetoric increases for more disciplines on the United States,” said Bobby Hanks, of Supreme Rice Mill and chairman of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee.  “In leading the U.S. delegation in Buenos Aires, we urge Ambassador Lighthizer to hold countries to their domestic support obligations and to oppose attempts to weaken disciplines on domestic price supports through public stockholding programs.  It’s also important that the United States support a dispute settlement mechanism in the WTO to hold accountable those who are not living up to their obligations.”

Even though the WTO as a negotiating venue has come under increasing criticism because of its failure to complete the long-running Doha Round of trade negotiations, past market opening benefits of the organization have been substantial for U.S. agriculture and U.S. rice, and the WTO’s dispute settlement system remains the only viable mechanism to enforce WTO rules.  

The United States is currently challenging China’s domestic support program for corn, wheat, and rice in the WTO, and victory would likely have significant positive effects on other heavy subsidizers like India and Thailand, which are U.S. export competitors.