NCC Supportive of Progressive Trade Policy; Concerned With Division Within World Trade Organization

NCC Chairman Bobby Greene told the House Agriculture Committee that if U.S. agriculture is to continue to support Administration trade policies, assurances must be provided that “our trading partners will adhere to their agreements.”

June 18, 2003
Contact: Marjory Walker
(901) 274-9030

WASHINGTON, DC – National Cotton Council Chairman Bobby Greene told the House Agriculture Committee here today that if U.S. agriculture is to continue to support Administration trade policies, assurances must be provided that "our trading partners will adhere to their agreements."

In his testimony before the panel, the Alabama ginner addressed multiple trade issues affecting the U.S. cotton industry.

One of those issues involves the U.S. textile industry’s economic crisis - mainly attributable to dramatic increases in Chinese textile imports. Greene stated that: 1) during the past 15 months, textile imports from China to the U.S. rose by 140 percent; 2) last year, in eight cotton-containing textile categories, imports surged 641 percent; and 3) from January 2001 through May 2003, the textile industry lost 267,000 jobs, and hundreds of factories shut their doors.

"It has taken persistent efforts to get rules published for implementing a safeguard mechanism for this flood of Chinese imports," Greene testified. "The long delay has permitted imports to grow to levels where the safeguard will be less meaningful. Unless the Administration is willing to use this safeguard tool, our domestic textile industry will be decimated."

On the other hand, he said the NCC has tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to get China to comply with the terms of the U.S.-China World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement.

Regarding the WTO, Greene said the Doha Round of agricultural negotiations appears to be in "a shaky holding pattern" with some countries allowing their political objectives to prevent rational and equitable policies from being adopted. He cited the recent plea from one African country’s head of state to the WTO to end the U.S. cotton program and the statement that such an action would be a test of other countries' commitment to the negotiations.

"The perception being fostered by several self-serving international organizations -- that U.S. agricultural policies drive the world agricultural economy -- is simply ludicrous," Greene stated. "The attempt to blame the ills of the world's developing countries on the U.S. cotton program is naive, at best. It is based on seriously flawed economics. It is misleading the leaders of many African countries. It ignores the substantial trade preferences the United States provides to African countries to enable them to develop their textile and apparel processing industries."

Greene told the panel that if U.S. agriculture’s competitors can convince the U.S. to give up certain industries unilaterally, that is one less item they need to contend with during the real give-and-take of a negotiation.

"The U.S. drove the Uruguay Round reform process," he testified. "It has submitted ambitious proposals for multilateral, broad-based reform in the Doha Round. We urge the Administration to reject the policies of division being fomented by various countries and certain international organizations."

Greene said that in addition to the Doha Round, "the U.S. has embarked on an unprecedented number of trade negotiations. In order to be successful, adequate resources must be devoted not only to the negotiations, but also to compliance with existing agreements."

He also noted that enhanced trade within the Western Hemisphere provides the greatest opportunity for the U.S. cotton textile industry to produce apparel products that are competitive with Asian imports.

"Our priorities in the Central America and South America free trade negotiations are reciprocal market access, effective rules-of-origin, no tariff preference levels, strong Customs enforcement provisions and effective rules to protect intellectual property," he stated.

The Memphis-based NCC’s mission is ensuring all industry segments’ ability to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.