WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of 62 leading U.S. agriculture stakeholders today called for continued U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The letter was sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and leaders of the Senate Finance, House Ways & Means, and Senate and House Agriculture Committees. It calls for effective WTO reform that would enhance the ability of American agriculture to access foreign markets and maintain transparency and accountability critical to future export growth supporting American jobs and identifies characteristics desired in the next WTO Director General.
Signatories of the letter include American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, Corn Refiners Association, United Fresh Produce Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and other industry groups.
“The WTO is fundamental to a rules-based system of international trade. We signed this letter to make clear to leaders on both sides of the political aisle that while reforms are needed continued U.S. leadership in the WTO is vital to American agriculture,” said John Bode, CRA President and CEO. “As long as exports are important to U.S. agriculture, WTO membership will be essential. This is critical to the one-fifth of the U.S. economy that is agriculture related.”
The letter notes the need for the WTO to institute updated rules in order to keep pace with global economic change and call for increased member accountability. A transition in WTO leadership presents the opportunity to successfully implement reform and reinvigorate its negotiating function under a new Director General, which is necessary to achieve progress on a wide variety of international agricultural trade reforms. The letter identifies desired characteristics of the next WTO Director General.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers across the U.S. depend upon the WTO’s international system of trade rules to facilitate growth in agricultural trade. We may not always appreciate WTO delays or decisions, but it is critical for the U.S. to remain engaged with the WTO in a leadership role. Exports are fundamental to the success of U.S. agriculture and the WTO helps to create a level playing field for trade.”
Throughout the WTO’s first two decades, overall trade in goods has nearly quadrupled while WTO members’ import tariffs have declined by an average of 15 percent. More than half of world trade is now tariff-free. The WTO affords U.S. agriculture producers and exporters most-favored nation (MFN) treatment in 163 countries, representing more than 80 percent of the global economy. Continued U.S. membership and active participation will help ensure that necessary reforms are undertaken, and that the WTO will continue to play an important and effective role in economic development of the United States and our trading partners.
“The WTO provides the foundation for rules-based trading and a vehicle to enforce them,” said Constance Cullman, President and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association. “Without this system, the United States animal food industry will not be able to compete fairly in the global market.”
“The United States must re-energize its participation in the World Trade Organization to exert a strong and proactive approach to trade negotiations that focuses on equitable trading rules, breaks down protectionist barriers and insures the selection of effective WTO leadership,” said Jim Parsons, President of the National Aquaculture Association.
“A WTO that reinforces rules-based trade is vital to solve the diversity of complex challenges currently unfolding across the globe,” said Dennis Slater, President of Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “Reform within the WTO will make American farmers more competitive in the global marketplace and create more demand for agricultural equipment. Without a strong commitment to uphold the rules of the WTO, or capability to reform the institution, the next WTO Director General will be unable to hold members accountable or negotiate new initiatives benefiting global trade and investment.”
“20% of all U.S.-grown potatoes are exported around the world,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council. “A modern strong WTO is essential to maintaining these vital markets.”
“The WTO remains a critical arbiter of adherence to global trade rules. The power of a multi-lateral agreement on market access and most importantly disciplines on domestic support, remains a priority for our organization,” said Rebecca Bratter, Executive Director of the U.S. Dry Bean Council.
“It is imperative that we maintain a rules-based system of trade. International trade is the lifeblood of American agriculture,” said Brian Keuhl, Co-Executive Director of Farmers for Free Trade. “The WTO has been critical to our success. An effective, functioning WTO is essential to U.S. agriculture.”
“A stable, functioning WTO system is essential to a predictable and sound trading environment in which American agriculture can compete and prosper,” said Andy LaVigne, CEO of the American Seed Trade Association.
“The ADPI and its members fully support the USA’s engagement with and continued working relationship with the WTO,” said Blake Anderson, CEO of the American Dairy Products Institute.
The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is the national trade association representing the corn refining industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, starch, advanced bioproducts, corn oil and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein and fiber.