TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct07/11)
11 October 2007
After a three-year lull in its notification to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States on Thursday has finally notified the world trade body of its domestic support payments for the period 2002-2005, maintaining that these levels were within its commitments under the Uruguay Round.
In what appeared to be a well-orchestrated media event in both Geneva and Washington, US Special Doha Agricultural Envoy Joe Glauber made the announcement at a media briefing at the US Mission here, while a simultaneous announcement was made by Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner in Washington.
Glauber also participated in a tele-news conference with some US-based journalists.
the media briefing in
was also of the view that direct payments, which the
payments that the
Box support (not subject to limits under the Uruguay Round) for the
Trade-Distorting Support (OTDS) of the
In a press release issued from Washington, Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner said that "in our notification, we have informed the WTO that US domestic trade-distorting support level remains below our $19.1 billion ceiling [applying to Amber Box support], demonstrating that the United States is in full compliance with our WTO commitments."
"We look forward to continuing to work with our WTO trading partners in broadening market access for all member nations," he added.
The US notification comes just as the WTO Agriculture Committee last week found that 78 members - over half of the membership - still have not supplied some or all of the required information on export subsidies, domestic support and market access measures (including tariff quotas and special safeguards) for 1995-2001.
those members who are allowed distorting domestic supports above minimal
"de minimis" levels, a number of major players in the agriculture
negotiations have not notified their spending since 2002 or earlier,
including Argentina, Norway, and the United States.
the media briefing in
said that the
Referring to the Amber Box outlays that are below the $19.1 billion ceiling, Glauber said that this means that the proposed cuts in trade-distorting support put forward by the US in its October 2005 proposal - cutting the AMS by 67% down to $7.6 billion - if one looked at the last eight years, the US support levels exceeded the proposed $7.6 billion cap.
report by the Washington-based National Journal's Congress Daily cited
Glauber as telling journalists at a tele-news conference that this showed
National Journal report also cited Glauber as saying that the
explained at his
Most of the increase reflects increases in nutrition programme spending, said Glauber, pointing out that programme spending in 2002 of roughly $38 billion, increased to almost $51 billion in 2005.
Decoupled income support payments - of roughly $5.3 billion - remained constant over that period, he added.
On the issue of Overall Trade-Distorting Domestic Support (OTDS - the sum of Amber Box, Blue Box and de minimis support), Glauber said that this is not a measure that the US reports to the WTO. This is a new measure under the Doha Development Agenda, not something under the Uruguay Round.
nevertheless said that the reason that he wanted to put out this data
is that even the upper end in the Falconer text for OTDS ($16.4 billion)
would mean quite binding constraints and would result in effective cuts
"Our OTDS levels would have exceeded the $16.4 billion in five of the past eight years... that is why we believe they are effective cuts [in domestic support]".
"We have indicated our willingness to work within the Chairman's text - the ranges and flexibilities in these texts for both agriculture and NAMA. Time is short obviously... Our believe is that others need to come forward and make the same commitments," Glauber said.
Financial Times report of 4 October quoted Schwab as saying that the
Glauber said that it is clear that without new trade flows, there's no new development. Without development, there is no alleviation of poverty.
Trade development and the alleviation of poverty are clearly the key goals of this Round, he said, adding, "we believe that the singular best way to improving trade flows is through opening markets."
In response to a question in relation to a figure of $5.2 billion (in direct payments) being placed in the Green Box, Glauber said that as far as direct payments are concerned, the US notified them as Green Box payments as he believed that they are consistent with the Green Box criteria.
It is true that the cotton panel, for 'peace clause' purposes, made a determination on direct payments, he said. They however avoided a decision for notification purposes.
also believed that the finding of the panel in so far as direct payments
do not contribute to price suppression just emphasizes the fact that
these have limited trade-distorting effects and why the
In response to another question, Glauber elaborated that the actual impact of the cotton case in terms of what effect cotton programmes have on cotton production and exports, the finding was that a variety of programmes - crop insurance and direct payments, being the two primary ones - had no substantive impact on world prices and are minimally trade-distorting.
for why the domestic support figures are only being released now, Glauber
said that what was important here was that they are being brought forward.
The years 2005-2006 will actually put the
Asked as to why the US felt that the figure of $16.4 billion for OTDS (in the Falconer text) is untenable as it is spending only $10 billion a year, Glauber said that many of the programmes are variable - many of its programmes are price-based and there is quite a deal of variation in those programmes.
one were to just look at one year, one could say that it is below the
range, according to Glauber, who noted that the most recent notification
providing any figures, Glauber also said that the
In response to another question, Glauber said that in terms of the OTDS, the US thought that it has made a lot of movement on this, and the acceptance to negotiate within the range (in the Falconer text) is a movement of some $6 billion or so from its initial offer in October 2005.
"The key to what number we end up with, we feel that we have shown a lot of flexibility on OTDS... the upper end of this range results in effective cuts on our overall trade-distorting support."
He said that "if you can show that binding limits are indeed a lot less than historical expenditure levels, I believe that is an effective cut - and a real cut."
in reaction to Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner's formal notification
of US farm spending levels to the WTO, Raymond C. Offenheiser, President
of Oxfam America, said: "For the first time in a while, the USDA
[US Department of Agriculture] has provided information regarding farm
subsidies to the WTO. Notwithstanding Acting Secretary Connor's statement,
"Even if we go with the numbers stated, they still show that the US is not willing to offer any substantial cuts within the Doha negotiations, as these numbers do not even rise up to the lowest ceiling American negotiators indicated they were willing to work with just a few weeks ago. Ultimately, what is now on the table would leave overall spending almost untouched.
real tragedy will be if the Acting Agricultural Secretary's statement
today will be used as cover for the US Congress to proceed with a Farm
Bill that continues farm subsidies largely unchanged, leaves the