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Senators warn -- no new "concessions" in trade round

In a letter released on April 16, 58 U.S. senators warned the Bush Administration not to budge on offers in the World Trade Organization's negotiations in the Doha Development Round.

Talks have been languishing because of the unwillingness of the U.S. and the European Union to agree on further reductions in their agriculture support programs.

Prospects for a successful trade agreements are getting dimmer for a variety of reasons. Increasingly more open trade is under attack in both Houses of Congress, which are pushing for greater market access for American farmers without a willingness to further reduce domestic. farm subsidies and support programs, especially for so-called “sensitive products.”

In addition, Trade Promotion Authority expires at the end of June, which means that the Administration cannot negotiate agreements and then have them voted up on down by Congress without amendments. If TPA goes forward, however, it is certain to be loaded with protectionist labor and environmental provisions that would burden developing countries and distort the concept of more open trade.

A new farm bill is currently being negotiated, which is likely to continue many of the bloated agricultural support programs, except those that aren't in compliance with WTO rules. More farm groups are looking for their slice of the support pie, including specialty crop producers, which have traditionally depended more on market forces rather than government handouts.

Not a good climate for free trade.