Agricultural Trade Negotiations at a Crossroads

T-NSIAD-91-10: Published: Feb 28, 1991. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 1991.

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GAO discussed the status of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade's agricultural trade negotiations, focusing on the: (1) disagreement between the United States and the European Community (EC); (2) need for an extension of fast-track authority; and (3) importance of U.S. agricultural groups' backing. GAO noted that: (1) the United States was willing to make fundamental changes in its system of government support for agriculture, while EC never evidenced the readiness to make comparable changes in its agricultural support system; (2) European leaders were unwilling to intervene because of the political power of Europe's agricultural interests, the committment of EC to the social policy objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy, and such external events as movement toward a single EC market in 1992 and the changes in Eastern Europe; (3) the entire round of negotiations was suspended because the two sides failed to reach a compromise on agricultural reform; (4) the President must ask Congress for an extension of fast-track authority since negotiations may soon restart, given the recent indications of EC increased flexibility; (5) the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee served as a formal mechanism for communication between government officials and representatives of the various agricultural commodity groups; and (6) while many important commodity groups publicly supported the thrust of U.S. proposals, certain commodity groups became increasingly concerned about the impact of trade liberalization.

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