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Washington Outlook Archive

Farm Trade Proposals Concern Cotton Growers

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A pledge by US Trade Representative Rob Portman to make “deep cuts” in US farm tariffs and other subsidies has the US cotton industry on edge. At a recent meeting in Geneva with trade ministers from some of the world's largest countries, Portman promised major concessions in order to get the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks back on track. While urging other developed countries to match the US proposals, Portman said developing countries also must be prepared to offer concessions commensurate with their ability to contribute to the cause of free trade

Woods Eastland, president of the National Cotton Council, said Portman's proposals represent a “very aggressive stance” and would require significant cuts in US farm programs if agreed to by members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Congress. Warning that there must be “ corresponding gains in market access,” Eastland said, “The troubling aspect for the US cotton industry is that China - the world's largest cotton market - continues to seek special treatment in the WTO so it can avoid market access concessions.” In addition, he said, the US cotton industry cannot allow countries with highly competitive agricultural products to avoid making concessions “ simply based on their self-declaration as a developing country.”

Regardless of what happens, he said, it is imperative Congress provides programs that result in “an effective safety net” for US cotton producers.

October 2005