U.S. offers new cap on supports at WTO talks

U.S. negotiators this week announced a new offer of a $15 billion cap in the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on the broadest level of U.S. farm supports called overall trade distorting support or OTDS, according to a report from USA Rice Federation.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab conditioned the new offer on achieving a meaningful package of agriculture market access gains from other WTO members, especially from advanced developing countries such as India, Brazil and China.

This is the third such reduction in the OTDS level offered by the U.S. since 2005.

Trade ministers from India and Brazil, key developing country leaders in WTO trade negotiations, criticized the U.S. offer to cap overall U.S. trade-distorting farm support at $15 billion as inadequate and demanded greater concessions.

While not unexpected, the response highlights the continuing lack of progress in matching reductions in trade-distorting domestic farm supports with expanded market access opportunities, said the rice federation in its daily e-newsletter.

“The current WTO talks shifted from a large, single-negotiating format to a series of small-group meetings to tackle key issues in the agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. The lack of progress to date in the negotiations for agricultural and non-agricultural products, has led some observers to speculate that the talks will continue into a second week,” the rice group reported.

The latest series of negotiations formally began July 21 in Geneva, when 30 trade ministers met for discussions, which are designed to achieve an agreement on modalities or a framework for negotiating specific tariff cuts and other forms of market access.

Several U.S. farm groups are represented, including USA Rice Federation. California producer Michael Rue and USA Rice Senior VP Bob Cummings are participating in daily briefings and discussions with U.S. negotiators.

USA Rice is reviewing the latest U.S. offer, but remains firm that any agreement on modalities must contain meaningful and measurable improvements in access for U.S. rice in exchange for cuts in domestic farm programs.

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