House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte this week said the 2007 farm bill will be "dramatically affected" by WTO negotiations, but the Virginia Republican said, "The next farm bill will be written in the United States Congress, not Geneva, Switzerland."
Partisan disagreement, the typical roadblock to the drafting of a farm bill, seems to be muted this time around ... at least so far. In fact, the main bone of contention to date has been over whether to simply extend the existing farm law until WTO negotiations are complete. Most Democrats and some Republicans are in favor of a limited extension while trade talks continue. But the White House is opposed, saying current U.S. commodity programs are unacceptable to WTO partners ... and will complicate trade talks.
Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture: "The most optimistic suggestion I've seen is that markup on the Farm Bill would probably occur in spring of '07, and this WTO process is to be wrapped up by the end of this year. Because of that timeframe I just don't think it's going to be an issue in terms of trying to extend the Farm Bill, waiting for the outcome of this process."
Either way, forcing the WTO to bend to one nation's will is NOT likely to happen. In fact, the long arm of the global trade body was evident this week in a ruling that went against a U.S. trading partner. A WTO panel denied an appeal by Mexico that it violated global trade rules in a soft-drink dispute with the U.S. An earlier WTO ruling supported U.S. claims that Mexico breached international law when it imposed a 20 percent tax on soft drinks sweetened with anything other than cane sugar grown in Mexico.
Mexico was a top market for high-fructose corn syrup from the U.S. before the tax was imposed in 2002. The tax made it too expensive to use the corn sweetener in soft drinks, and now the U.S. share of the market in Mexico is only 6 percent of pretax levels.