New ag trade coalition focuses on WTO reform

A new agricultural coalition led initially by a USA Rice official is focused on reform of the World Trade Organization.

The coalition recently sent U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter which said, “The world is looking to the Biden administration to provide leadership to reform the WTO, a difficult but important task that could serve as a lasting achievement and benefit American workers, including farmers and ranchers, for many years to come.”

“The WTO has served American farmers, ranchers, and workers across the food and agriculture sector well, but in recent years the flaws in the system have become apparent,” the coalition wrote.

“Reform is badly needed, including changes that lead to a market opening agenda for agriculture and a better functioning institution. These changes can help improve global agricultural sustainability and support rural communities, workers, and better-paying jobs across the United States.”

The letter included an attachment that outlines a set of principles to address WTO reform issues and priorities for the 12th Ministerial Conference scheduled to take place in Geneva in late November and early December.

“In summary, WTO reform should focus on further market-based and sustainable trade liberalization, institutional improvements that help members better prevent or address trade problems, and a more effective and efficient dispute settlement system,” the coalition said.

The letter was signed by 34 groups, but Peter Bachman, the USA Rice vice president for international trade policy, said the core coalition is composed of 14 groups that he noted comprise a cross section of “the agricultural sphere.”

The letter, Bachman said, is specific enough “to give the U.S. government some direction. This has been lacking in years past when they headed into the ministerial negotiations.”

Bachman noted that the signatories to the letter included the North American Meat Institute, which represents meat packers, and U.S. Cattlemen, which represents ranchers.

“It is a pretty good thing when you can get U.S. cattlemen and the packers on the same page,” he said.

The coalition intends to remain focused on WTO reform rather than a broader agenda.

“We really want to get work done sooner rather than later,” Bachman said, noting that the group is looking for ways to be involved with the U.S. delegation to the upcoming ministerial meeting, which will be both in person in Geneva and virtual.

Bachman said the coalition had worked with Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, a former agriculture official in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and DTBAgritrade, which is headed by Craig Thorn, a former U.S. trade negotiator in Geneva, in developing its concepts.

Bomer Lauritsen spoke about the new coalition at a meeting of the American Seed Trade Association in June, saying it is focused on identifying “realistic priorities for U.S. agriculture at the WTO to yield long-term benefits for U.S. producers and agribusinesses.”

The following groups are members of the coalition:

▪ Almond Board of California

▪ American Seed Trade Association

▪ American Soybean Association

▪ Corn Refiners Association

▪ CropLife America

▪ National Cotton Council

▪ National Milk Producers Federation

▪ North American Meat Institute

▪ U.S. Dairy Export Council

▪ U.S. Grains Council

▪ U.S. Soybean Export Council

▪ U.S. Wheat Associates

▪ USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

▪ USA Rice


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