U.S. agriculture trade proposal flies in face of Farm Bill

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CALGARY, Alta. — The U.S. has proposed an international agriculture trade deal aimed at cutting subsidies while eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) export monopoly on wheat.

The proposal, unveiled at an international gathering of the world’s top food exporters in Japan, has raised the ire of virtually all countries except the U.S.

Robert Zoellick, U.S. trade representative announced “We’re unveiling our comprehensive package designed to open world agricultural markets to fair competition. This plan is a win for America’s farmers, ranchers and consumers…and it’s a win for the global economy.”

That’s not how representatives from other countries saw it, however, as the move flies in the face of the recent subsidy-rich U.S. Farm Bill.

“I think it’s a complete farce,” says Canadian Federation of Agriculture president, Bob Friesen. He tells local media it’s nothing but an attempt to stall World Trade Organization (WTO) talks long enough to get U.S. Farm Bill subsidies through without any delays.

Among the recommendations covered by the U.S. proposal are: trade-distorting subsidies must amount to less than five per cent of the value of the domestic agricultural production (a move that would cut Canada’s allowable subsidies be about 60 per cent while U.S. subsidies would go untouched); tariffs would be reduced to no more than 25 per cent, eliminating Canadian supply management protections; export subsidies would be scrapped (except food aid and commercial financing concessions used by the U.S.); government-supported agencies would no longer be allowed to be monopoly exporters (a move that could spell the end of the CWB).

“We call for the elimination of the export state trading monopoly control such as the Canadian Wheat Board and the financial privileges that they enjoy as export state trading monopolies,” says chief U.S. agriculture trade negotiator, Allen Johnson.

Friesen responds to the proposal by stating “Nobody will see this as a credible proposal, given their own subsidy intentions and their willingness to block trade when they want.”

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