Ambassador Susan Schwab, United States Trade Representative: "We made it clear last fall that our proposal was not a take it or leave it offer. However it was contingent on receiving meaningful offers from our trading partners that match our level of ambition on agricultural market access. We have yet to receive such offers"
Secretary Mike Johanns, United States Department of Agriculture: "I can't come to these folks on the hill and say we have given away our domestic support if I can't get a solid market access agreement."
They were joined by a veritable "who's who" of farm state lawmakers. The pair received strong words of encouragement and definite instructions on what to do at the negotiating table.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman: "We want to make sure that we do everything possible to try to achieve an agreement because it is important to America's farmers and ranchers in the future as well as in the short term that we have a good strong agreement in the Doha round."
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, House Agriculture Committee Chairman: "No other country has put forward offers that measure up to our proposal. Now it is time for the rest of the world to step up to that challenge. If they will not then that old but accurate phrase applies, 'No deal is better than a bad deal.'"
The current round of trade talks, started in Doha, Qatar in 2001, have constantly been stymied by the two issues of agricultural support payments and trade tariffs. Scheduled to conclude in Geneva in 2004, the talks broke down when negotiators could not reach an agreement. The members decided to keep working and scheduled another meeting in Hong Kong in 2005. Those talks also came to a halt when no agreement could be reached.
During the Hong Kong meeting, the United States offered to cut trade distorting farm subsidies by 60 percent if other countries dropped farm tariffs by up to 95 percent. Counter-offers by other countries, the European Union among, them have been unacceptable to US negotiators.
Ambassador Susan Schwab, United States Trade Representative: "We want a big outcome and there have been, periodically, rumors that some how we would settle for something less and the message here is we have no intention of settling for something less."
Trade ministers from the European Union have stated they are willing to work with the United States trade team and, if there are real cuts to farm subsidies, increase access to the European marketplace.
The entire agreement will require work on an interwoven series of negotiations requiring all the member nations to give-in on one point or another before real progress can be made. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, the former European Union Trade Commissioner, has informed all the participants that "the clock is ticking."