Iowa Public Television


WTO Reopens Talks

posted on August 6, 2004

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange says it had its busiest trading month ever in July, with volume averaging 3.2 million contracts a day. Trading in agricultural commodities was up 6 percent. But the fastest growing area of trade was in global financial instruments like Eurodollar futures and foreign exchange products ... further evidence that we live in a global economy.

Another sign of globalization is the framework hammered out last weekend by the nations of the World Trade Organization. And though some U.S. farm state lawmakers are troubled by the framework's potential for sharply cutting domestic subsidy programs, the breakthrough in talks left most WTO members hopeful for freer world trade.

WTO Reopens Talks After reaching what was believed to be an impasse, the 147 nations of the World Trade Organization appear to have found a reason to return to the negotiating table. Though nothing has been decided, other than trade talks will continue, the pessimism over last September's deadlock in Cancun has been replaced by the optimism of August in Geneva.

Reactions from U.S. farm groups have been generally upbeat. The National Corn Growers Association called it a positive step. The National Cotton Council, though glad to see subsidies being discussed, was concerned about being singled out.

Washington remains cautiously optimistic. The USDA was pleased with the framework and lauded US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick for his work. A spokeswoman for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte stated the Virginia Republican generally was pleased with the agreement but indicated there still was a long way to go. Ranking member for the committee Democrat Charles Stenholm concurred and said the work was far from done. Despite the cheery atmosphere, South Dakota Democratic Senator Tom Daschle was concerned the agreement could destroy the farm safety net.

Even with the unexpected breakthrough, the exact amounts to be cut from domestic farm programs have yet to be decided. The next ministerial meeting is scheduled for December of 2005 in Hong Kong.

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