Tough Going in Bali

The clock is ticking down on the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting in Bali. With talks scheduled to conclude tomorrow, Dec. 6, negotiators remain far apart regarding a proposal advanced by India, with the support of several other developing countries, to expand agricultural production subsidies, ostensibly in the interests of food security. Such a proposal is clearly a step back from the Uruguay Round of commitments limiting "amber box" trade distorting programs.

"This is an important principle," said Floyd Gaibler, U.S. Grains Council director of trade policy, who is in Bali defending the interests of the producers U.S. feed grains and co-products. "As the world becomes ever more integrated, trade is increasingly the key to food security. Trade distorting subsidies are a step backwards."

Nonetheless, there is great pressure in Bali to reach an agreement. The current Doha Round of WTO talks has stalled while bilateral and regional trade agreements proliferate. "The WTO has been -- and remains -- an essential institution for resolving trade disputes," said Gaibler, "but its relevance as a negotiating body is under pressure. We all want the current talks to succeed, but not at the cost of compromising fundamental principles."

Negotiators are locked behind closed doors, and time is growing short. "The U.S. negotiating team has been outstanding," Gaibler concluded. "We've had the opportunity to be fully engaged. We all have our fingers crossed for tomorrow."

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