fb - voice of agriculture
November 2000

Farm Bureau Promotes Fairer Trade Principles


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Hundreds of millions of people around the world will benefit from yet another bountiful harvest secured by America's farmers and ranchers. Despite low prices, bad weather and international uncertainties, output remains high. USDA expects the value of 2000 production to be almost $195 billion, which is up a bit from 1999. A good part of that, around $51 billion, will come from international sales. Imagine what our prices and our production would be if we could not sell our goods to foreign buyers.

There is a growing crowd of people with diverse agendas that seeks to throttle capitalism, bar the borders to international trade, do whatever it takes to isolate us from the rest of the world. This anti-globalization, anti-progress, anti-freedom movement gained world attention at what was to be the start of a new round of trade negotiations in Seattle. Since then, the same crowd has staged protests around the world to disrupt various meetings aimed at liberalizing global trade and finance systems.

Farmers and ranchers, who are so dependent on trade, cannot sit quietly by as others promote agendas contrary to our well-being. Farm Bureau is playing a major role in representing American agriculture and American ideals. We are recognized and respected internationally and our views are sought by all who understand that mutually beneficial, fair trade improves the standards of living of those who participate.

Making Progress Toward Profitability

We had some important victories in the trade area in 2000. Farm Bureau led the charge to expand trade with China. Securing congressional approval was not easy despite the compelling case we made. Getting China into the World Trade Organization means it will respect the international trading rules that already govern 137 other nations. U.S. farmers and ranchers expect to see a $1.7 billion annual jump in our farm exports to China and to other Asian countries, where we will regain market share lost to previously subsidized Chinese competition.

Another victory is the elimination of sanctions on trade of U.S. food and medicine. U.S. agricultural exports were prohibited to five nations, but recently passed legislation lifts this prohibition and prevents the imposition of similar arbitrary, unilateral sanctions in the future. The U.S. may now export our agricultural goods to Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba. Iran is the market with the greatest potential for U.S. agricultural export sales, with Cuba a close second once U.S. restrictions on tourist travel are lifted.

Trade Barriers Must Fall

U.S. farmers and ranchers will benefit when all nations abide by the same trading principles. Our support for and involvement with the World Trade Organization is based on this basic Farm Bureau belief. We look to the WTO to prevent unfair practices, to ensure access to markets and to continuously evaluate trade agreements and their implementation. Last month in Geneva, Switzerland, I met with the WTO's Director General and trade negotiators from many regions of the world. My message to all was clear. The days of erecting agricultural trade barriers through tariffs, subsidies and unfair practices are fast coming to an end.

U.S. farm trade will grow under the standardized trading system promoted by WTO nations. The dispute settlement process, although it needs to be streamlined, works. It works as long as nations live up to their commitment to make it work. Our nation does and we have been successful in getting other countries to implement 11 agricultural WTO rulings that the U.S. brought against them. The European Union stands alone in its unwillingness to implement the beef and banana rulings. However, we now have carousel retaliation, a powerful tool that Farm Bureau succeeded in writing into U.S. law this year. This tactic imposes tariffs on a changing list of specific European agricultural imports, a strategy feared by exporters there. Getting the current administration to implement carousel retaliation remains our biggest challenge.

Global trade involves far more than moving products. It also involves the movement of ideas and values that improve the daily lives of citizens in the participating nations. Farm Bureau is committed to working for negotiated solutions that expand market opportunities for our farm products and solutions that keep farmers on the farm. Fairer and freer trade is our goal, for this century and this millennium.