The Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks began with the grand and monumental objective of breaking down trade barriers and reducing world poverty. The effort, however, was swallowed up by the protectionist bent that's come to dominate the world scene.
The trade talks this week in Geneva were supposed to be the breakthrough meeting where countries had too much to lose to not compromise. Instead, the talks were suspended due to countries' inflexibility on positions they'd already staked out.
Ironically, while the breakdown of talks may be a negative for U.S. ag in the long run, it's likely a positive in the short term. That's because, with a looming battle over a new farm bill, and the political environment surrounding it, most were anticipating a 2007 farm bill would entail sharp reductions in farm subsidies. But lack of progress in the Doha talks now will put pressure on Congress to maintain or increase support, especially as we move into a critical election year.
There's no doubt budget constraints will result in a scaled-back farm bill, but it's difficult to imagine the U.S. government unilaterally reducing support and harming American ag.
-- Troy Marshall