Agricultural Trade Negotiations:

Stalemate in the Uruguay Round

NSIAD-91-129: Published: Feb 1, 1991. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the progress in the multilateral trade negotiations of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, focusing on the agricultural trade component.

GAO found that: (1) the United States and the European Community (EC) continued to disagree strongly on the nature and extent of agricultural trade liberalization; (2) participating countries failed to reach a compromise on agricultural reform by the round's scheduled closing of December of 1990, resulting in suspended negotiations; (3) recent changes in eastern and central Europe, including Germany's reunification, could have made EC leaders less inclined to initiate radical reform of agriculture policy; (4) EC made no specific commitments on either the U.S.-proposed 90-percent reductions in export subsidies or 75-percent reductions in market access barriers, and essentially called for 10-percent to 30-percent reductions in internal support programs over a 10-year period; (5) before restarting negotiations, EC must show signs of flexibility; (6) in seeking substantial agricultural trade reform, the United States has had support from the Cairns Group and several developing countries; (7) the administration may not be able to continue credible negotiations on its own because of deadlines imposed by U.S. law; and (8) the backing of the major agricultural commodity groups within the United States could be an important factor in obtaining congressional approval of any negotiated agreement.

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