WASHINGTON, DC – A group of House Members has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab citing their serious concerns with the cotton language in the draft text released by World Trade Organization (WTO) Agriculture Negotiating Chairman Crawford Falconer.
“While Ambassador Falconer' s text is subject to ongoing negotiations, the treatment of cotton is unique and assumes a consensus opinion where there is none,” the letter stated. “Furthermore, the language ignores how best to address the underlying issues and help producers in four West African countries.”
The lawmakers say they believed Ambassador Falconer erred by failing to bracket the “cotton language.” Nowhere in the draft, they say, is there mention of the underlying distortions in the international cotton market and the efforts the United States has made, and continues to make, with initiatives such as the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Finally, given the agreement in the Hong Kong Declaration that any further cotton domestic support adjustments would be negotiated after an overall agriculture agreement is reached, the letter points out, “we are concerned the draft text creates added pressure for a separate cotton agreement in advance of an agriculture agreement.”
The letter also acknowledges that: 1) the WTO Doha Round negotiations are extremely important to the ability of U.S. agriculture to compete in the global marketplace and 2) lowering trade barriers not only will help farmers and ranchers reach new markets around the world, but will assist developing countries sustain growing economies.
The Representatives stated, though, “While the benefits of a comprehensive and multilateral agreement are great, we cannot abandon a group of farmers who have operated within the parameters of a program written to comply with the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and the status of which continues to be adjudicated in the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. Treating cotton differently than all other agriculture products in the Doha negotiations erodes our support for the WTO and the Administration's trade agenda. Simply stated, the cotton language in the Falconer text is unacceptable. The language must be changed significantly or we will have to seriously reconsider our possible support for a final Doha Agreement should one be reached.”