IDFA Disappointed by Suspension of WTO Talks

Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is disappointed that global trade talks came to a halt in Geneva in July as trade ministers failed to make progress on the key issues of market access and domestic subsidies in agriculture.
IDFA officials believe multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) provide the best and most important opportunity to open markets for U.S. dairy products and dairy-containing foods. “We are disappointed that the negotiations have been suspended,” says Clay Hough, IDFA senior vice president and general counsel. “The U.S. dairy industry has plenty to gain from an ambitious Doha Development Agenda agreement, and we fully support the U.S. government position requiring increased market access.” Hough explains that the U.S. dairy industry is poised to become a more prolific supplier of value-added dairy products, building on the innovation and economies of scale that are the hallmark of competitive industry in the United States. “We in the dairy-processing industry are truly bullish on our future in the global marketplace, and we want the best possible conditions — open and competitive markets where consumers, not governments, pick winners and losers — to pursue our objectives. We, therefore, encourage all trade ministers to continue working to break this impasse,” he says.
IDFA supports the Bush administration’s ambitious Doha objectives to eliminate market access barriers, export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support. These objectives would expand market opportunities for the U.S. dairy industry, because demand for dairy products grows as incomes grow, especially in developing countries. “We encourage U.S. efforts to focus the world on the importance of successfully completing Doha for the right reasons — creating substantial new opportunities to trade and eliminating trade-distorting subsidies,” Hough says. “We also call on Congress to extend the Trade Promotion Authority to provide ample time to conclude the round and other important trade negotiations that remain unfinished.”  
DFA Supports Decision to Leave Trade Talks
The dairy farmer leadership of Kansas City, Mo.-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc. (DFA) commends U.S. trade negotiators for stepping away in August from World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Geneva, Switzerland. U.S. negotiators are holding out for substantial improvement in trade policy related to agricultural products and commodities.
“The lack of progress in the WTO over the past year has been unfortunate, but the problem would have been compounded if the United States were to agree to a flawed treaty that doesn’t represent real progress for dairy farmers,” says Tom Camerlo, DFA chairman and a dairy farmer from Florence, Colo. “Rather than accepting a bad deal at the last minute, it’s better that we step away from the negotiating table and assess what the next steps should be.”
The WTO round has been suspended for an indefinite period because of inequities that remain among developed nations like the United States and the European Union (EU) and differences between developed and developing countries. Much of the impasse is centered on whether the EU will further open its markets to dairy products, or whether such products will be on a list of “sensitive” goods that are exempt from trade reform.
After meeting just days ago with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab in Washington, DFA’s dairy farmer leaders made it clear they cannot accept a prospective WTO agreement that retains the existing disparities between the United States and the EU in key areas like export subsidies, domestic supports and market access.
“Our farmers greatly appreciate that Ambassador Schwab listened and understood the nature of our concerns. She held her position in Geneva, even though it meant the talks would probably stall,” Camerlo says. DFA’s board of directors also commended Schwab and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns for their work in the Doha round and pledged its continued support of negotiations for equitable trade policy on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers. The cooperative’s farmer board also endorsed an extension of the president’s trade promotion authority.
“DFA’s dairy farmer members understand that the outcome of these negotiations will affect their futures and the writing of the next farm bill,” Camerlo says. “Right now, it appears that the EU must determine the next step. Until they are willing to respond with an equally fair proposal, there is nothing more the United States should put on the negotiating table.”