On Thursday Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said even in the event trade negotiators in Geneva come up with an agreement this week, the U.S. Congress would be unlikely to work on it before the new Administration takes office next January. Harkin acknowledged "it would be unfortunate" if the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations fails. He again pressed for a "balanced" agreement that would lower trade barriers and open markets for U.S. exports if the U.S. is to lower farm subsidies. Harkin pointed out that a WTO agreement would give world trading partners "stable and forceful rules we can all rely upon."
Harkin's press call came in the wake of an offer this week by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to cap U.S. farm subsidies at $15 billion. Harkin, who has worked to switch subsidies to conservation payments, pointed out that offer was an affirmation that future U.S. farm payments should come from non-trade distorting activities. He expressed concern the new U.S. offer could affect the new ACRE program, a safety net option for farmers in the new farm bill. While taking a tough stance on market access, Harkin said a World Trade Organization deal might have a better chance of passage in Congress, because of the multilateral – and multi-sector - market opportunities, than the bilateral free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and Korea.