G10 Countries Express Trade Concerns

Chuck Zimmerman

As we get closer to the Hong Kong Ministerial of the WTO the rhetoric is heating up. Ag groups here in the United States have sure been sending out the “position” releases. I have to call them that since I’m not sure I would use the word news to describe the content of a lot of the ones I see. They are informative though for reporters, most of which probably don’t “use” them other than for background information.

What is interesting is to see the language and the us vs. them attitude that everyone has in this world trade negotiation. I’m sure the same thing happens in other countries and in fact, I received a release this morning from an interesting group of countries who see things very differently than our farm groups here in the U. S. This release was sent by the Swiss Farmers’ Union.

After intensive discussions with governmental and WTO officials in Geneva, we farm organisations from the G10-countries of Japan, Korea, Norway and Switzerland, express our grave concerns about the development of the WT O negotiations in agriculture. Exporting countries like G20 and USA have continued to put forward aggressive negotiating proposals such as drastic tariff reductions, tariff capping, and limitation on the number of sensitive products while importing countries’ requests for reflecting non-trade concerns and providing flexibility in market access have not been properly accommodated. We are also deeply concerned about the recent proposal of the EU including tariff capping and deep cuts in tariffs. These proposals do not consider the special situation of the agriculture in the net food importing countries.

Who would think that countries like Japan, Korea, Norway and Switzerland would get together on anything? The release also mentions “multifunctionality” which is a concept we don’t discuss much here. It takes a little bit of explanation and understanding the cultural differences that exist between these countries and the U. S. If you delve into it you’ll start to understand the thinking behind the folks we’re negotiating with a little better.

I don’t personally believe we’ll see much accomplished again this year. If you think differently please feel free to comment.