Geneva: Breathing life into struggling world trade talks, the United States has signalled its willingness to limit trade-distorting farm subsidies to a level between $13 billion and $16.4 billion, the WTO’s lead farm trade negotiator has said.
Crawford Falconer of New Zealand said yesterday (19 September) Washington made the move contingent on other countries accepting proposed cuts in agricultural tariffs.
The US has never said publicly it could accept a cap on payments to American farmers below around $23 billion.
The question of rich countries’ farm subsidies has been a major stumbling block in the WTO’s six year effort to liberalise world trade.
“I thought it was very constructive,” Falconer said at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters, where he has been chairing intensive agriculture talks since the beginning of September aimed at bridging differences between rich and poor nations over proposed subsidy and tariff cuts.
“That probably justifies three weeks of work in itself.”
Sean Spicer, spokesman for the US trade representative in Washington, said “the US will lead but others must step up to ensure” that significant new trade flows are created in agriculture, manufactured goods and services.
Several WTO diplomats present at the meeting confirmed that chief US farm trade negotiator Joe Glauber said Washington accepted the proposed subsidy range if other countries agreed to Falconer’s plan for cutting tariffs on farm products.
For the 27-nation European Union, for example, that would mean a reduction of its highest farm tariffs by 66% to 73%.