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Agence France Presse

WTO Calls On US to Cut Farm Subsidies

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A farmer picks cotton on a farm on the outskirts of Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region September 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

GENEVA - The World Trade Organization called on the United States on Wednesday to cut its farm subsidies, saying that they were so "considerable" that they could affect market prices.

In a report analysing Washington's policies since 2007, the trade body said that while promoting its exports, the United States should also reduce "distorting measures ... including ... support for agriculture."

The WTO noted that support granted to the sector under the multi-billion-dollar 2008 Farm Act are mostly "linked to prices and or production."

Thanks to this support, "producers of cereals, oilseeds, and cotton are effectively insulated from market prices while sugar and dairy have market price support programmes," said the WTO.

"The large size of the agriculture sector means that the absolute amount of support is considerable, varies from one year to another depending on prices, and can affect world prices," it added.

Brazil also hit out against the US' farm policies during the WTO's examination of Washington's trade policies every two years.

"Agriculture accounts for only 0.8 percent of US GDP and it employs just 1.4 percent of its labour force," noted Roberto Azevedo, Brazil's envoy to the WTO.

"Nevertheless, this sector displays a considerable arsenal of trade-restrictive and distorting measures."

Azevedo pointed out that most of the subsidies are concentrated on crops such as cotton soybeans and rice.

"When prices drop, those subsidies will be in place again precisely at the moment when they will provoke the largest distortions and most damage to producers elsewhere," he charged.

Washington's subsidies to its agriculture sector is a key sticking point holding up long-stalled Doha negotiations for a new global free trade deal.

Its support for cotton producers has been judged illegal by the WTO, in a complaint brought by Brazil.

Brazil however agreed to not apply reprisals after both countries decided to wait for the new Farm bill in 2012 to see what modifications would be made.

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