The World Trade Organization meets next month in Cancun, Mexico, where talks on farm trade will take center stage.
But there's been plenty of action ahead of those negotiations. In fact, the WTO asked two of its major players, the United States and the European Union, to try and set an example for the trading bloc's 146 other members. This week, the two trading partners did just that.
The U.S. and the European Union this week sketched out plans to cut subsidies and import duties on a massive scale over the next few years.
The document stops short of the previous U.S. demand for elimination of export subsidies ... which the U.S. and other major exporters like Canada and Australia ... say are the most damaging to free trade. However, the E.U. insisted on retaining some export subsidies to support its farmers.
The proposal would not limit the price supports given to farmers in their own domestic markets. This irritates developing nations. They complain they are hurt by markets flooded with cheap commodities, like subsidized European sugar and American corn.
Although there was some movement toward consensus among the "big" players, criticism already is pouring in from other WTO members. Some poorer countries said the plan would pry open the markets of developing nations without any clear commitment on the part of the U.S. and EU to open their own