ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, U.S. — The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) praised U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for his efforts to defend U.S. agriculture against “attempts to weaken the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on domestic support in agriculture.”

 Lighthizer on Dec. 11 at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, accused the WTO of losing its focus on trade and becoming a “litigation-centered” body.

 “Too often members seem to believe they can gain concessions through lawsuits that they could never get at the negotiating table,” Lighthizer said.

 In a press release issued Dec. 13, the USW said the Buenos Aires Ministerial would be a failure if the trade liberalizing mission of the WTO were to take a massive step backwards through a permanent exemption for market price supports for certain major agriculture producers.

“India and other countries have attempted to create a permanent loophole for certain types of price support programs associated with state-run stockpiling programs,” the USW said. “These types of price supports can be highly trade distorting, violating both WTO rules and the spirit of trade liberalization that the organization is meant to embody. Worse, by holding the entire trade negotiating system hostage to demands to weaken commitments on agriculture, these countries are undermining the WTO and exacerbating the institutional challenges it faces.”

The USW said domestic support negotiations are a non-starter for U.S. agriculture without market access liberalization.

“For example, India’s bound tariff rate on wheat is 100%, giving it more than enough policy space to restrict all wheat imports,” the USW said. “U.S. tariffs are much lower in virtually all products.”

The USW said it does not object to holding public stocks for food security, which is critical for all countries. Public stockholding has always been included in the Agreement on Agriculture’s “Green Box” of non-trade distorting support, but with the recognition that administered prices (i.e. price supports) should be properly notified considering their potential to distort trade. There is no such restriction on purchases for public stocks using market prices, it said.
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers.”