FarmPolicy

January 28, 2020

GMF Podcasts- “Trade Leaders Optimistic About Doha Deal”

Categories: Doha / Trade

Note: I will be traveling on Wednesday (28th) to Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Assuming no technical difficulties, the regular FarmPolicy News Summary will return Thursday morning, March 1.

Jack Thurston, a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, recently conducted a series of interviews with leading stakeholders from government, business, World Trade Organizaiton member governments, and NGOs regarding the Doha Development Round negotiations of the WTO.

Mr. Thurston conducted these nine interviews, including a conversation with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, at a recent retreat, “Realizing the Doha Development Agenda as if the Future Mattered.” The retreat was held in Salzburg, Austria, from February 16-20 and was convened by three non-profit foundations with global missions: theWilliam and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Salzburg Seminar.

A news release from earlier this week summarized the retreat by noting that, “Participants came away from the retreat more optimistic about the prospects of obtaining a Doha agreement. Participants from Africa, Brazil, Europe, India, and the United States all said their leaders understand the economic and geopolitical importance of reaching a multilateral trade agreement, but they are not doing enough to convince their constituents back home. Participants departed with a commitment to return home to push their governments for a strong and timely conclusion to the trade talks, to talk to their citizens about the importance of a Doha agreement, and to build the necessary coalitions among diverse stakeholders to pass a final Doha agreement.”

All of the audio interviews conducted by Mr. Thurston can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here. The first interview, which was done on February 16, was with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and can be downloaded by clicking here (MP3).

In part, DG Lamy indicated that a “political side” of the negotiations has contributed to the difficulty of concluding the Doha talks. “Parliaments need to ratify the conclusion of these agreements, and Parliaments are places where interests and lobbies have their say, and in places like Washington or Brussels or Delhi, [there is] no way you can sort of clinch a deal without making sure that your Parliament, your political parties, your constituencies will accept it when they will have to ratify it.

“Most WTO Members are democracies, and democracies don’t always work with numbers, they also work with politics and that is the difficult side of it, especially when agriculture holds such a key position in the unlocking of the conclusion of the Round,” Lamy said.

DG Lamy went on to note that the politics of trade are not the same as they were ten or fifteen years ago, globalization has made people in some ways more “trade reluctant.”

Mr. Thurston also explored the consequences of success and the consequences of failure of the Doha Round with the WTO leader.

On February 20, Mr. Thurston spoke with Jim Kolbe, a former Republican Congressman from Arizona who is now a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund. Also joining this conversation was Linda Menghetti, a former chief minority staff counsel to the Senate Finance Committee. This interview focused on the role being played by the US Congress in the end game of the Doha Round. To listen, just click here (MP3).

With respect to the political atmosphere on trade in the U.S., Mr. Kolbe stated that, “This is going to be a very tough sell in Congress.” Nonetheless, Mr. Kolbe is encouraged by the fact that the possibility of agreement exists, “when six months ago the talks were suspended and it didn’t seem as though we were going to see any agreement at all.”

Mr Kolbe also provided an excellent explanation of the importance of trade promotion authority. Both Mr. Kolbe and Ms. Menghetti pointed out that there are a lot of potential points of interest for Congressional members, districts and states in the Doha talks because they are so broad-based. Compared to a bi-lateral trade deal with one country, the Doha talks do provide for the opportunity for more Congressional members to have a constituent interest and reason for supporting the passage of a potential deal.

As noted previously, the other seven interviews conducted with Mr. Thurston can be downloaded from this webpage.

In addition to audio interviews, valuable background and briefing documents regarding the Doha talks have also been posted. Of particular interest: a briefing document, entitled, “The Doha Round Agriculture Negotiations: An Overview;” an easy to read bullet point summary, entitled, “Doha Round Overview – ‘What’s on the Table;’” and this briefing paper, “Concluding the Doha Round – The Reality Check.”

-Keith Good

Doha, Budget & Ethanol Impacting Policy Debate

I. Doha- EU and India
II. U.S. Issues- Cotton and Budget
III. Cellulosic Ethanol
IV. Stenholm

I. Doha- EU and India

Alan Beattie
, writing in today’s Financial Times, reported that, “Private conversations among leading countries in the so-called ‘Doha round’ of global trade talks have produced constructive engagement but no broad agreement yet, participants say.

“Top negotiators from some of the leading countries in the talks including the European Union, the US, India and Brazil met last week in London to continue a series of bilateral conversations, particularly about the highly sensitive farm talks. Talks have centred on different categories of exemptions to the cuts in agricultural tariffs that will be permitted to rich and poor countries.

Peter Mandelson, European trade commissioner, yesterday told the FT: ‘What came out of last week’s senior officials’ meetings is a clear turning point in the negotiations. We now have a better negotiating relationship between the majors.’”

(more…)

Doha: More than U.S. / EU Agreement Needed for Successful Outcome

Categories: Doha / Trade

Additional news regarding the Doha round of W.T.O. trade talks is now available at the German Marshall Fund’s Trade & Development webpage. For complete details, just click here.

-Keith

Farm Bill Issues

Categories: Ethanol /Farm Bill

Philip Brasher reported in yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “President Bush has a goal of restoring and improving 3 million acres of wetlands by early 2009, a goal that will benefit wildlife as well as enhance water quality.

“The key to doing that is a U.S. Agriculture Department program that buys easements on low-lying farmland and then helps pay all or part of turning the acreage back into wetlands. The wetlands provide valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife, control flooding and cleanse contaminants from groundwater.”

(more…)

Ethanol – Market Prices – Ramifications

Categories: Ethanol /Farm Bill

I. Ethanol – Market Prices – Ramifications
II. Farm Bill Issues

I. Ethanol – Market Prices – Ramifications

Edmund L. Andrews reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Bush put on a white coat and visited a laboratory here Thursday to promote his goals for making alternative fuels from switch grass, woodchips and other plant waste.

“After touring the laboratory, which is developing enzymes to make cellulosic ethanol, fuel distilled from plant byproducts, Mr. Bush spoke buoyantly about new technologies that may reduce the nation’s thirst for foreign oil.

“‘Doesn’t it make sense to be able to say to our farmers, grow what you can grow so we become less dependent on oil?’ the president told an audience at Novozymes North America, the subsidiary of a Danish technology company. ‘I like the idea of a president being able to say, wow, the crop report is in, we’re growing more corn than ever before, which means we’re importing less oil from overseas.’”



Corn prices continue to rise (Graph from The Economist Online).

The Times article added that, “Corn-based ethanol is the primary substitute for gasoline, and output is about seven billion gallons a year. But industry experts and administration officials estimate that corn-based ethanol can at most supply only half the alternative fuel Mr. Bush has proposed.”

And in conclusion, today’s NY Times article indicated that, “At one point, Mr. Bush jumped in to explain that corn-based ethanol could not provide enough alternative fuel because ethanol demand was already outstripping supply.

“‘We got a lot of hog growers around the United States, and a lot of them here in North Carolina, who are beginning to feel the pinch as a result of high corn prices,’ he said. ‘The question, then, is how do you achieve your goal of less dependence on oil without breaking your farmers — without breaking your hog raisers?’

“‘Here’s how: You develop new technologies that will enable you to make ethanol from wood chips, or stalk grass, or agricultural waste.’”

(more…)

Doha Flickers

Categories: Doha / Trade /EU /Farm Bill

Additional news regarding the Doha round of W.T.O. trade talks is now available at the German Marshall Fund’s Trade & Development webpage. For complete details, just click here.

-Keith

Farm Bill: Budget Concerns Persist

Categories: Budget /Ethanol /Farm Bill

I. Budget Concerns
II. Johanns Speech
III. Farm Bill Issues

I. Budget Concerns

Jerry Perkins reported in today’s Des Moines Register that, “High commodity prices will give authors of the next farm bill their stiffest challenge, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said Wednesday at the National Ethanol Conference.

“U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told the 2,000 attendees at the ethanol conference that projected spending in the 2007 farm bill would be about 45 percent less because of Congressional Budget Office projections for high corn, soybean and other crop prices.

“Those projections will guide how much money will be available for the next five-year farm bill.”

(more…)

After French Elections, Farm Issues Identified By Chirac May Wane

I. Doha – France
II. Farm Bill Issues

I. Doha – France

Reuters news reported earlier this week that, “European Union industry ministers on Monday urged key partners in the stalled Doha trade talks to explore ways to conclude the negotiations successfully, though France vetoed setting a 2007 target for such an outcome.

“The ministers agreed the possibilities for a ‘constructive compromise’ should be explored and called on key partners to ‘act in the same spirit of constructive commitment in order to conclude the negotiations in a successful way,’ EU sources said.”

Late last week, French President Jacques Chirac spoke out with very sharp words regarding U.S. farm subsidies and spoke specifically against federal cotton subsidies, which he identified as “scandalous” and “immoral.”

The article added that, “France, however, rejected adding ‘as soon as possible in 2007’ to the conclusions of Monday’s meeting, EU sources said.”

The Reuter’s piece also reminded readers that, “France, the staunchest defender of EU farm subsidies, has repeatedly warned [EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson] against going too far in the negotiations.”

(more…)

Johanns- U.S.D.A.’s Farm Bill Proposal


I. Johanns- U.S.D.A.’s Farm Bill Proposal
II. Agricultural Economy- Ethanol’s Impact

I. Johanns- U.S.D.A.’s Farm Bill Proposal

Joseph Morton, writing in today’s Omaha World-Herald, reported that, “Despite the challenges, [U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns] said he is still enjoying the job and even spoke highly of recent trips to Capitol Hill, where he faced some tough questions in trying to sell Congress on his 2007 farm bill proposal.

“But Johanns’ background in farming and politics seems to have served him well so far. The son of an Iowa dairy farmer, Johanns was governor of Nebraska when he was named agriculture secretary by President Bush.

“Members of Congress may have had some pointed questions for Johanns during the recent hearings, but they also praised his sincerity and indicated a willingness to work with him.”



The Omaha World-Herald published an article in today’s paper (“Despite challenges, Johanns enjoys work as agriculture secretary”), which highlighted U.S. farm policy and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

The article noted that, “Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has denounced the Bush administration on various agricultural issues, including what he describes as inadequate funding to support renewable energy sources such as ethanol. But Harkin gave Johanns high marks for supporting conservation programs and promoting bio-based products. He said some of Johanns’ budget-related proposals are simply the result of whom he works for.

“‘After all, Mike’s boss is the president,’ Harkin said.

“Johanns doesn’t shy from supporting his boss. While the president’s approval ratings have declined greatly over the past few years, Johanns said his admiration of Bush has only increased. Coming from Texas, Bush is on top of agricultural issues, Johanns said.

“‘I don’t need to give him a 20-minute briefing on something,’ he said. ‘This is a guy who understands agriculture.’

(more…)

Focus on Africa

Categories: Doha / Trade /EU

French President Jacques Chirac recently spoke out against U.S. cotton subsidies. For additional details on this and other trade & development issues, see “Focus on Africa,” which is now available at the German Marshall Fund’s Trade & Development webpage.

-Keith

Farm Bill Editorials (Sugar)

Categories: Farm Bill

I. Farm Bill Editorials
II. Planting Decisions

I. Farm Bill Editorials

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times editorial board stated that, “Americans pay about double the world market price for sugar, a hidden tax that hurts everyone with a sweet tooth. Many beverage and food makers catering to that sweet tooth have long used corn syrup instead of sugar because it’s cheaper, but the price of corn syrup is beginning to rise. So now would be a good time for the U.S. government to revisit its destructive farm policies.

“This is a classic case of a narrow, vocal lobby — sugar growers — benefiting at the expense of the larger economy. The latest victim of high-priced sweeteners is Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., the largest bottler of Coca-Cola products, which announced last week that it would cut 3,500 jobs because of a $1.1-billion loss in 2006. Other soft-drink makers, confectioners and food companies also pay a steep price for the complex system of price supports and import quotas aimed at protecting U.S. sugar growers by insulating them from global market realities.

“More U.S. food makers probably would use sugar rather than corn syrup if they could pay the real market price for sugar and have access to more of the sweetener. Compounding the awful distortions created by the current quota system is the fact that corn syrup prices are rising so sharply because more of the U.S. corn crop is being diverted to make ethanol, which makes little sense because ethanol can be made much more efficiently from — you guessed it! — sugar. It’s hard to even keep track of all the ways in which the nation’s sugar protectionism is damaging.”

(more…)

Federal Farm Spending: Budget Issues and the Farm Bill

Although U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns did not appear on Thursday before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee (his appearance has been postponed), he did testify before the House Budget Committee on Thursday. Sec. Johanns was joined by Deputy Secretary Charles F. Conner,
U.S.D.A. Budget Officer W. Scott Steele and U.S.D.A Chief Economist Keith Collins.

According to a transcript of his remarks, Sec. Johanns indicated that, “Farm program spending can be highly variable, largely reflecting changes in commodity markets as well as emergency spending to address natural and economic disasters in the agriculture and rural economy. Mandatory spending on farm programs funded through CCC [Commodity Credit Corporation], including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), has decreased from a record-high of $32.3 billion in 2000 to just over $20 billion in 2006. We expect this trend to continue with CCC outlays estimated to decline to $11.7 billion in 2008 under current law, which assumes a simple extension of the 2002 Farm Bill. CCC outlays under the current law baseline are estimated to increase to an average of $12.4 billion annually from 2008 to 2017.

(more…)

Disaster Aid and Farm Spending

I. Disaster Aid and Farm Spending
II. Doha
III. Ethanol

I. Disaster Aid and Farm Spending

Elana Schor, writing today at The Hill Online, reported that, “Democrats will seek to add billions of dollars in disaster aid for farmers to the emergency war supplemental that must pass next month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday.

“Reid said he notified President Bush at a White House meeting late Wednesday that the supplemental, which could arrive in House committees just after the recess, will extend a hand to Midwestern and Western farms crushed by flooding, fires and freezes.”

(more…)

Doha and Trade

I. Doha and Trade
II. Farm Bill
III. Ethanol

I. Doha and Trade

Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported yesterday that, “Trade promotion authority, also known as fast track, allows [U.S. Trade Representative Susan] Schwab’s office to negotiate trade deals that Congress must approve or reject without making any changes. It’s considered vital to the success of the Doha round of world trade talks.

“[At a House Ways and Means hearing yesterday,] Schwab said she was ‘cautiously optimistic’ of a breakthrough in the Doha round in the coming months. If that occurs, the United States will need trade promotion authority to implement any eventual deal, she said.”

“Trucks waiting to unload their cargo of corn line up at an ethanol plant in Marcus, Iowa.” (Picture and quote from U.S. News & World Report Online).

Washington Post writer Peter S. Goodman, who also reported on yesterday’s Ways and Means Committee hearing, added in today’s paper that, “Democrats, eager not to be painted as protectionists, have in recent weeks toned down their rhetoric, with leaders saying repeatedly that they want to see a new round of trade pacts approved. The Bush administration, keen to win congressional approval for recently negotiated pacts with Peru, Colombia and Panama and intent on securing deals with Korea and Malaysia, has been speaking of compromise on labor protections, the most contentious issue of the debate.

“But beneath that amiable talk, substantial disagreement remains over details, according to sources in the administration and on Capitol Hill and as evidenced by the sometimes sharp exchanges during yesterday’s hearing.”

To view a summary of Ambassador Schwab’s presentation before the committee, just click here.

(more…)

Reaction to Administration’s Farm Bill Proposal Continues

Categories: Farm Bill

I. Farm Bill
II. Sugar

I. Farm Bill

Bob Campbell, writing in yesterday’s Midland Reporter-Telegram (Texas), reported that, “Concerned about elements of the Bush administration’s proposed 2007 Farm Bill, U.S. Reps. Mike Conaway of Midland and Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock will take an independent approach to drafting the bill in the House Agriculture Committee.

“The Republicans said Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns’ plans to lower direct payment limitations and shake up loan rates and counter-cyclical commodity supports will be critically viewed.

“Conaway said Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota will begin ‘marking up,’ or writing, the bill in subcommittee hearings and recommend a plan that will differ substantially from Johanns’.”

(more…)

Trade Promotion Authority

I. Trade
II. Agricultural Economy

I. Trade

Associated Press writer Martin Crutsinger reported yesterday that, “President Bush’s top trade negotiator said Monday that quiet talks are under way with congressional Democrats seeking to bridge differences on labor and environmental standards in trade deals.

“U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said she was ‘hopeful and confident that Congress will quickly answer’ the call Bush made last week for a renewal of trade promotion authority, which is set to expire on July 1.

“This authority, also known as fast track, allows the president to negotiate trade agreements that must be considered by Congress on an expedited basis that bars any amendments.

“Schwab, who spoke to a coalition of business and farm groups lobbying for renewal of fast-track authority, said that the administration was having a ‘quiet conversation with Democrats on the Hill on labor and the environment. These talks are ongoing and I am hoping we will be able to bridge the gap.’”

(more…)


« Past Entries