By Ambassador Allen F. Johnson
Office of the U.S. Trade
While Georgia was
still a British colony back in the 1700’s, forward-thinking farmers speculated
that they could produce silk and wine for export back to
England. Even though the silk and wine exports
didn’t work out,
farmers today produce and export peanuts, cotton, beef and poultry not only to
England, but to
the entire world.
is a leading producer of a broad variety of agricultural products including
poultry, peanuts, beef, and cotton.
agriculture sustains a more than $6
billion industry with farm and farm-related employment for over 835,000 people.
It is because of this success that
Georgia’s farmers and ranchers find themselves part of a national debate that
will set the future course for the United
States’ agricultural community.
There are two possible visions for the
future: one looks inward and is stagnant; the other is outward and dynamic. The inward vision focuses only on
supplying our domestic market. To
limit our ambitions to the domestic market is to endanger the growth prospects
for this and future generations of U.S. farmers.
To sustain our productivity, we must
recognize that a growing global economy creates new opportunities to access new
customers and rapidly growing markets overseas. Ninety-six percent of the world’s
consumers live outside of the United
As the world’s population and world food
consumption continues to expand, so will the demand for the high-value products
where the United
States has a comparative advantage. Nationwide, exports of agricultural
products grew more than three times as fast as the total of all
U.S. exports in the last year. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture has forecast record agricultural exports of $62
billion for 2004. The United States is #1 in the world for exports of poultry
meat, peanut butter, cotton and, in most years, #2 for
Exports are crucial to
Georgia’s agricultural producers. Exports accounted for nearly $1 billion
for Georgia farmers and ranchers in 2003.
Georgia is the top exporter of poultry and peanuts,
and among the top ten states for tree nuts, cotton and seeds.
U.S. exports to our traditional markets continue
to grow. For example, fruit and nut
exports to the EU were nearly $1.1 billion in 2003, a 33 percent increase over
1999. Under NAFTA exports of
U.S. poultry to
from $16 million in 1994 to nearly $237 million in 2003.
Realizing the need to further expand markets
around the world, we have completed free trade agreements with 12 countries in
the last 3-1/2 years: Jordan, Bahrain, Chile, Singapore, Morocco, Australia,
Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican
Republic. The combined population
of these countries represents a market of nearly 120 million people, which is
roughly the size of the smallest 38 U.S. states.
We are working on agreements with 10 more
countries: Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Thailand, and the five-nations of the Southern
African Customs Union (SACU). Last year, the
U.S. exported $17.5 billion to these countries,
which, taken together would rank as our 9th largest export
These new free trade agreements, when
enacted, will expand opportunities for
Georgia producers. The CAFTA countries (Costa Rica, El
Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) for instance, have agreed to
immediate duty-free access for cotton, and preferential tariff-rate quotas
(TRQs) for poultry will result in new and growing access for those commodities
as out-of-quota tariffs are phased out.
The Morocco agreement provides for immediate duty-free
access for cotton and peanuts and new and growing access for
U.S. poultry, including immediate duty-free
access for some processed poultry products. The
Australia agreement established a new mechanism
for enhanced cooperation on science-based measures that affect trade between the
We are also advancing
U.S. interests in the World Trade Organization
(WTO) by working to level the playing field for
Americas’ farmers, ranchers and growers, who often
face high barriers to our world class products. Only in the WTO can all trading partners
be brought to the table to secure a comprehensive deal that benefits
U.S. agricultural interests by reducing all types
of trade-distorting policies.
The WTO framework agreement reached in late
July in Geneva will benefit American agriculture: eliminating export subsidies – including
the over $7 billion a year the EU is allowed to spend on export subsidies on a
wide range of products, including grains and poultry; reducing and further
harmonizing trade distorting domestic support – in particular the over $80
billion a year the EU can spend on trade-distorting domestic support; and
substantially increasing market access will benefit all of American
agriculture. Only by addressing
these three pillars of agricultural trade together, farmers and ranchers in the
States and around the world can win. In this framework we were also
successful in working with the West African cotton producing countries in an
agreement to address cotton as part of global agriculture negotiations with all
trade distorting policies on the table rather than the focus solely being on
The best way to address any distortions in
world agricultural markets is through the WTO agriculture negotiations, not
through litigation. This is the
message we have delivered concerning Brazil’s challenge of our agricultural support
measures, including support for cotton farmers. The September panel rulings provided
some welcome findings, such as the fact that our decoupled income support
payments have not caused “serious prejudice” under WTO rules. However, we strongly disagree with some
other aspects of the panel report.
We are defending our farmers by appealing these issues. Frankly, the facts do not show that
U.S. farm programs have distorted trade and
caused low cotton prices.
A level playing field for
Georgia farmers and industries also means that they
will continue to have recourse to strong remedies to address injurious dumped
and subsidized imports. Under the mandate for WTO
rules negotiations that the United
States insisted upon and obtained at the Doha
Ministerial, the strength and effectiveness of our trade remedies will be
Enforcing existing trade agreements is just
as important as negotiating new agreements. For example, we have been actively
engaged in working with the Chinese to ensure that their tariff rate quotas
provide market access for U.S. cotton.
China is a critical market for
U.S. cotton exports, now our number one market as
it purchases over 20 percent of U.S. cotton production, and cotton in 2003 was
our second largest agricultural export to
Many of our day-to-day activities involve
foreign sanitary and phytosanitary barriers – animal and plant health
issues. Together with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s scientists and technical staffs, we are constantly
working with industry to ensure that measures imposed by foreign countries, have
a scientific basis and are not unnecessarily trade restrictive. As needed and appropriate, we
initiate dispute settlement cases.
In fact, the United
States recently initiated a case against the EU and
its’ restrictions on biotech products.
build on Georgia’s
proud agricultural traditions and heritage and to ensure new opportunities for
the current and future generations of farm families, we must continue to embrace
the outward vision as the road to the future. By developing export markets and
continuing our long-standing agricultural heritage, farmers and ranchers can
look outward beyond America’s
shores to the rest of the world.