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Letter on Trade Negotiations in Doha Development Round


Monday, 26 July 2004

The Honorable Robert B. Zoellick
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Zoellick:

On March 24, 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to you on behalf of the Domestic and International Policy Committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning global trade negotiations taking place under the auspices of the World Trade Organization. At that time, we presented our concerns surrounding the impasse in negotiations among WTO members and offered moral criteria that should be considered by the United States in the negotiating process.

We write to you again in light of the negotiations under way to formulate a framework for future trade negotiations in the Doha Development Round. We are particularly concerned about poor families and vulnerable workers whose situation must be considered in these negotiations. This is especially true in regard to the negotiations on agriculture. Failure to arrive at a just agreement may have serious consequences for the poor who are most in need of meaningful trade reforms.

On Friday July 9, 2004, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace sponsored a seminar entitled “Poverty and Globalisation: Financing for Development, including the Millennium Development Goals.” At this meeting, attended by a number of distinguished experts, as well as leading Church representatives, including Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, participants expressed concern at the lack of progress in trade negotiations since the Ministerial meeting in Cancún last year. Failure to reach consensus on an equitable framework agreement in Geneva during the coming days may lead to a long delay, which could prove very damaging for the cause of development and the needs of the poor whose lives and dignity are at the heart of our concern about trade and who are often not represented in the negotiations.

World leaders promised that the current round of negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization would be the “development round,” ensuring that it addresses the needs and concerns of the WTO’s poorest members. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops believes that the United States has a special responsibility in seeking success in this ‘development round.’

The current impasse appears to center around an inability to reach an agreement on agricultural issues. The subsidy and support systems of the wealthier nations encourage overproduction which can lead to the dumping of excess supplies on world markets, which can jeopardize agricultural production in poorer nations and their access to developed country markets.

To correct this situation, richer countries need to reduce substantially their use of commodity subsidies and other price distorting trade practices, sooner rather than later. While Europe and Japan need to significantly reduce their export subsidies and high import barrier protections, the United States needs to sharply reduce trade distorting domestic supports and target supports to small and medium sized farms.

At the same time, poorer countries need greater flexibility in the use of these instruments, including less stringent timetables and, in some circumstances, retention of support mechanisms. This flexibility is needed to protect their farmers against unfair competition, to provide food security for their citizens and to achieve income security for their farmers and rural workers. Such special and differential treatment serves as recognition by the international community that developing countries require special measures, including financial assistance, if they are to participate successfully in world trade. We hope that you will seek to ensure that special and differential treatment is an integral part of the framework agreement.

Furthermore, as you consider food aid as part of a potential framework agreement, we support efforts to strengthen rules to prevent the disposal of food surpluses that displace commercial agriculture in the receiving countries. This can further jeopardize food security in developing countries. However, we urge you not to compromise food aid that is legitimately responding to the food security needs of poor and hungry people in many food-insecure countries.

As the United States negotiates with other WTO members next week, we urge that it demonstrate the flexibility needed to ensure that a genuine development round is realized. We encourage our U.S. negotiators to make a special effort in the negotiations to help break the current impasse. The cost of failure would be too much for the poor to bear.


Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee


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