By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) - The United States said on
Tuesday it was prepared to examine how agricultural policy
reform could boost global food security as part of a package of
commitments at the World Trade Organization's upcoming meeting
"The United States agrees with India and other proponents
that enhancing food security in developing countries is indeed
an important issue for this body to address," U.S. Ambassador to
the WTO Michael Punke said in Geneva, according to a text of his
remarks released in Washington.
"Therefore, today we are stating our openness to a work
program, to be agreed by Bali, on food security that can examine
the full range of trade-related government measures that can
contribute to that goal," Punke said.
The U.S. outreach comes as WTO members are striving to agree
on a "small package" of trade reforms at the group's upcoming
ministerial meeting in December in Bali.
In late 2001, WTO members launched an ambitious round of
global trade talks aimed at slashing farm subsidies, cutting
tariffs on agricultural and manufacturing goods and opening
services markets around the world to more trade.
Twelve years later, the WTO's failure to complete the
so-called Doha round has tarnished its reputation.
A major reason for the impasse is the U.S. insistence that
advanced developing countries like China, Brazil and India make
better offers to open their markets in exchange for proposed
cuts to U.S. farm subsidies.
Earlier this month, Punke warned the WTO was "hurtling
towards irrelevance," with continued disagreements casting doubt
on reaching a "trade facilitation" deal at the Bali meeting to
cut red tape from customs procedures.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Punke sounded more optimistic and
identified new areas of U.S. flexibility in response to concerns
raised by developing countries about problems they could face
implementing the trade facilitation pact.
"A number of members are putting forward their own
flexibilities. This is what is needed to secure a Bali outcome:
nations with the will to make tough decisions to advance the
text," Punke said.
The proposed food security work program should look at how
food security could be enhanced by "further liberalization in
agriculture trade, reductions in trade-distorting domestic
support, elimination of export restrictions, improved
transparency, and efficient distribution systems," he said.
It should also examine the effectiveness of public
stockholding and administered prices in addressing food security
concerns, as well as "how to improve food security though
better-functioning markets," he said.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Paul Simao and Paul