Congressman ‘deeply disappointed’ in WTO cotton ruling

WASHINGTON - Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas says Brazil’s attempts to cast the U.S. cotton program as the villain in the world cotton market is misguided at best and disingenuous at worst.

Speaking out after details of a World Trade Organization panel’s review of the Brazilian complaint began to leak out, Neugebauer said the ‘disappointing’ ruling should be appealed if it is not corrected before its public release, now scheduled for June 18.

“Brazil claims that our policies caused low prices, but the fact of the matter is that low world prices from 1999-2001 caused supports such as marketing loan gains to kick in,” Neugebauer said in a statement.

“Our commodity programs are fully consistent with commitments made in the last WTO agreement, and an analysis done by cotton economists at Texas Tech University in Lubbock shows that world prices would not significantly increase with elimination of our cotton programs.”

The congressmen said he has spoken with U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick several times on this issue and applauds Zoellick statement on Wednesday that the decision will be appealed and that it could be years before the ruling as any impact on U.S. farm programs.

“Just as I told the Cancun negotiators last year, singling out one commodity, and one nation's policies on that commodity, is not the path to take for fair trade,” Neugebauer noted. “When all of the 148 WTO countries put their tariffs, export subsidies and unfair trade barriers on the table, then and only then can we have a full discussion of agriculture support.

“If Brazil, China, Japan or the developing countries believe that singling out cotton will help bring about free and fair trade, they are sadly mistaken.”

Neugebauer’s opponent in the race for Texas’ newly redrawn 19th District seat also expressed disappointment with the reports of the WTO decision.

“Under the WTO rules, countries are permitted to support their farmers in ways that are the least trade distorting,” said Congressman Charlie Stenholm in a statement issued jointly by the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. “WTO rules govern the amounts countries may provide their farmers. The United States abides by the WTO rules and is, and has been, in accord with its rules on agriculture.

“World trade in agriculture is highly competitive and barriers, such as high tariffs, are rampant,” said Stenholm, the committee’s ranking member. “Countries regularly deny access for U.S. agricultural products for many reasons, including non-scientific barriers for U.S. beef, grains and fruits and vegetables.

“We have said repeatedly that gaining access for U.S. agricultural products is the most important objective of the ongoing WTO negotiations. Our agricultural tariffs are low; the average is 12 percent, while worldwide agricultural tariffs average 62 percent.”

Stenholm, who announced he was running for the 19th District seat after the Texas Legislature abolished his 17th District, said any changes to countries' agricultural policies should come through negotiations between WTO members and not through decisions that do not appear based on WTO rules.

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