December 15,2005

Grassley Says It’s Time to Ignore the Sideshows, Get Ambitious in Hong Kong

HONG KONG -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, theSenate committee with legislative and oversight jurisdiction over international trade, today madethe following statement on the status of progress at the World Trade Organization Ministerial. Along time outspoken advocate for American agriculture and free trade, Grassley farms corn and soybeans with his son in Butler County, Iowa.

“Since the start of the Doha Round in 2001, WTO members have been negotiating overhow to reach agreement on agriculture. Such an agreement would reduce barriers to trade andbenefit farmers and consumers in both developing and developed countries. It would lift peopleout of poverty around the world. But now that the delegates of the 149 WTO countries havetraveled from all over the world to meet in Hong Kong in an attempt to make real progress, theEU is creating sideshows.

“The reason for these sideshows is obvious. The EU is scared that we’ll get to the biggestissue in these talks. And that’s agricultural reform. They know they’re vulnerable on agriculture.So they’re setting little fires all over the place, like with food aid and duty-free, quota-free access.That way, negotiators will spend the week trying to put out these little fires that the EU isstoking. Negotiators will wake up on Sunday with these little fires smoldering around them andsay, ‘oops, we didn’t have time to get to ag reform.’ To some, this would be a successfuloutcome from Hong Kong.

“We can’t let this happen. Spending too much time on issues like food aid and duty-free,quota-free access won’t lead to long-term development, which is what the Doha Round is about.

“We’ve known since the start of the Doha Round that the crux of the negotiations wouldbe agricultural reform. That’s no surprise to anyone. So let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’stime to start negotiating on agricultural market access. There’s no separate development agenda,as the EU would like everyone to believe. Market access is the development agenda. I know thisisn’t a new call to arms, but agricultural market access is the issue that negotiators have toaddress before the Doha Round closes. And we’re running out of time. We’re already almost tothe halfway point in Hong Kong. Looking further out, the negotiations have to conclude within ayear in to meet the deadlines set by Trade Promotion Authority.

“The United States is the country of ambition. We’re prepared to reach agreement onagriculture as part of a comprehensive agreement. We showed our ambition in our Octoberagriculture proposal. The U.S. proposal was a leap of faith. Now our farmers and other businesspeople are counting on negotiations to get them something in exchange for what they’re preparedto give up. Congress is watching, too. But some of our trading partners don’t seem interested in areasonable give-and-take at all. Instead they insist on perpetuating sideshows, drawingunconditional and unrealistic lines in the sand, or just sitting out the negotiations altogether. It’stime for our trading partners to get serious, step up to the plate, and show some leadership. Otherwise, the Doha Round will remain stalled.”

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