The World Trade Organization is heading down a new and more trade-friendly path and that will benefit the U.S. ag sector, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer declared at the end of the group’s 11th ministerial meeting - MC11 for short - this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“MC11 will be remembered as the moment when the impasse at the WTO was broken. Many members recognized that the WTO must pursue a fresh start in key areas so that like-minded WTO members and their constituents are not held back by the few members that are not ready to act,” Lighthizer said, alluding to countries like China and India. “In this regard, the United States is pleased to work with willing members on e-commerce, scientific standards for agricultural products, and the challenges of unfair trade practices that distort world markets.”
The National Cotton Council was quick to approve Lighthizer's remarks.
“We appreciate Ambassador Lighthizer and his team of negotiators from USTR and USDA for their efforts and their insistence that the WTO remain focused on the long-term goal of a balanced outcome that will expand trade,” said NCC Chairman Ronnie Lee. “This was especially important for cotton, as some WTO members continue to call for concessions above and beyond the reforms we have already made, without anything in return.”
The U.S. took a firm stance this week to rebuff an effort to weaken WTO restrictions on price supports for crops. It also led an effort to reduce the impact of pesticide residue restrictions on international agricultural trade.
Government price supports are often used by developing nations to build up massive stockpiles of corn and other farm commodities. If those stockpiles are eventually allowed to flood the international market, they push down global prices and harm U.S. exporters.
As to the U.S. proposal on maximum residue levels for pesticides, Lighthizer said, “The United States is pleased to work with WTO members to solve important trade problems affecting American farmers."
The U.S. Wheat Associates, U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Soybean Export Council, USA Rice, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers and National Barley Growers Association together published a statement lauding the USTR's work in Buenos Aires.
“The development and application of sound SPS measures is needed to support farmers' choice in tools that can expand agricultural production and facilitate access to food and agricultural products, and also to safeguard human, animal and plant health,” the ag groups wrote.