Office of the United States Trade Representative


Pressing Forward in the WTO - The President's 2004 Trade Policy Agenda


On the global front, the United States is pressing an initiative to regain momentum in 2004.  Having played a key role in launching the Doha Development Agenda, the United States followed up by proposing the elimination of all global tariffs on consumer and industrial goods by 2015, substantial cuts in farm tariffs and trade distorting subsidies, and broad opening of services markets. Indeed, we are the only major country in the negotiations to put forward ambitious proposals in all three areas of the market access negotiations. These proposals reflect extensive consultations with Congress and the private sector. In addition to laying the groundwork for bold market opening, the United States took the lead in resolving the contentious access to medicines issue in August 2003. But at the Cancun WTO meeting in September, some wanted to pocket our offers on agriculture, goods, and services without opening their own markets, a position we will not accept.


Despite the deadlock at Cancun, the United States continued its leadership role in the Doha negotiations. Only a few weeks after Cancun, more than twenty diverse APEC economies joined the United States in calling for a resumption of WTO negotiations, using the last Cancun text as a point of departure. In December, the WTO General Council completed its work for the year with an important report by its Chairman on the key issues that need to be addressed if the Doha Development Agenda is to move forward.


With signs that many countries concluded that the Cancun impasse was a lost opportunity, the Administration, in January, put forward a number of “common sense” suggestions to move the Doha negotiations forward in 2004. In a letter to all WTO ministers responsible for trade, the United States offered a realistic assessment that progress this year will depend on the willingness of Members to focus on the core agenda of market access for agriculture, manufactured goods, and services. In agriculture, the letter suggested that WTO Members agree to eliminate agricultural export subsidies by a date certain, agree to substantially decrease and harmonize levels of trade-distorting domestic support, and seek a substantial increase in real market access opportunities both in developed and major developing economies. The letter noted that the United States continues to stand by its 2002 proposal to set a goal of total elimination of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and barriers to market access.


For manufactured goods, the United States proposed that WTO Members pursue an ambitious tariff-cutting formula that includes sufficient flexibility so that the methodology will work for all economies. In addition to the tariff cutting formula, sectoral zero-tariff initiatives would be an integral part of the negotiations, and the United States suggested use of a “critical mass” approach to define participation in sectoral initiatives. The United States also emphasized the consensus for addressing nontariff trade barriers in the Doha negotiations.


In the important area of services, the United States suggested that Ministers press for meaningful services offers from a majority of WTO members, as well as make available technical assistance to help developing countries present offers. With regard to the so-called “Singapore Issues,” the United States now suggests proceeding solely with negotiations on trade facilitation.


The initial response to this initiative has been very positive both from overseas and among domestic constituencies, suggesting that 2004 need not be a lost year for the Doha WTO negotiations. As a follow-up step, the Administration has initiated a series of consultations in Geneva and in capitals to meet with Ministers and senior officials, listen to ideas, and work for progress.


The above was excerpted from the President's 2004 Trade Policy Agenda.  Click Here for the full report, released in March 2004.

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