Congress members outline priorities for WTO Bali Ministerial

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2013-Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to maintain strong trade agreements during the negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the upcoming Bali Ministerial in a letter sent Wednesday.

The WTO's Ninth Ministerial Conference will be held in Bali, Indonesia, from Dec. 3-6. The Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the WTO and usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO and can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., along with Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich., Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also emphasized agriculture proposals being discussed for inclusion in a Bali Ministerial package.

“We are wary of efforts in certain recent proposals to roll back existing rules or weaken commitments,” they wrote. “Those rules and commitments protect well-functioning agricultural markets, which benefits developing, food-importing countries as well as U.S. agricultural producers.”

Any agreement should include safeguards to limit the duration of any “peace clause” regarding WTO-inconsistent practices, they wrote. They also said an agreement should significantly improve the transparency of existing programs, and ensure that no commercial distortion occurs as a result of these programs.

“Any violation of these safeguards should automatically invalidate the restraints that are being discussed,” they stated.

Lets Talk Food

Overall, the representatives and senators noted that “an ambitious trade facilitation agreement” is essential to any Bali package and that the entire package must reflect U.S. interests and priorities. According to their letter, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that an agreement could reduce trade costs by 10 percent in advanced economies and up to 15.5 percent in developing countries.

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