WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2014 – A group of 40 agricultural organizations, trade associations and companies are commending U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for standing firm against what they say is India’s attempt to “hold the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) hostage” to gain concessions in World Trade Organization negotiations.
WTO members concluded negotiations on the TFA – a pact to streamline customs procedures and reduce red tape in trade – in December 2013 as part of Bali Ministerial Conference. The WTO’s 160-member governments failed to ratify the agreement in July after India demanded faster progress on exempting stockpiles of food held to manage domestic prices. India repeated its hard-line stance earlier this month.
In a letter to Froman, the agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Meat Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said they wanted to express appreciation to Froman and his staff “for defending U.S. interests and the integrity of commitments undertaken in the World Trade Organization (WTO) by refusing to acquiesce to demands by India to reopen agreements reached at the WTO Ministerial in Bali last December.”
They described India’s actions as a “brazen effort to force other WTO member nations to pay twice to gain India’s endorsement of TFA” and said “this behavior cannot be tolerated.” They noted that India had already used the TFA issue as leverage to gain other concessions that allow it to operate price support programs for basic commodities which have led to subsidized exports in violation of WTO commitments.
“This leverage was employed under the guise of ‘food security.’ Other WTO members sought to address India’s demands while also imposing certain reasonable conditions on the use of such programs – most importantly, notification requirements and a commitment that such programs should not distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other WTO members.”
Recent USDA reports indicate that agricultural support in India now far exceeds support in the U.S. and most other developed countries. And it is these programs that India seeks to protect from challenge, according to the letter.
The agricultural group said they weren’t surprised that India would try to use the TFA issue again to gain further protections from challenge, “knowing how badly the majority of WTO members want formal and final adoption of TFA.” They noted that TFA is also the first multilateral agreement reached since the establishment of the WTO and they said it “serves as proof that the multilateral negotiating system can still work and can bring benefits to hundreds of nations at a time.”
To see the entire letter and the list of signees, click here.
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