News / USA

US Subsidizes Brazilian Cotton Farmers in Latest Trade Twist

$147 million fund for Brazil's cotton farmers aims to end long-running WTO dispute

The U.S. has agreed to establish a $147 million dollar fund to help cotton farmers in Brazil and other countries improve their production.
The U.S. has agreed to establish a $147 million dollar fund to help cotton farmers in Brazil and other countries improve their production.

Multimedia

Audio

American taxpayers may soon be subsidizing Brazilian cotton farmers in order to protect the earnings of U.S. drug companies. That's one way to look at a new agreement aimed at ending a long-running dispute within the World Trade Organization between Brazil and the United States.

It's the first time the U.S. has been penalized over its farm subsidies. But the resolution leaves some agricultural trade experts scratching their heads.

For years, cotton growers in developing countries have complained about U.S. farm subsidies. The U.S. government wants to help sell more American farm products on the world market. So it provides export companies with financial help to lower their prices on everything from grains and soybeans to dairy products and, in this case, cotton. That pushes down the global market price of cotton.

"For farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who are subsisting on very little money, a small reduction in price based on American subsidization is a big deal to them," says David DeGennaro with the Environmental Working Group.

WTO rules against US

In 2002, several African countries joined Brazil and took the United States to the WTO over its cotton subsidies.

They won. That's a first.

But the U.S. didn't end the subsidies. So the WTO said Brazil could retaliate by raising its import tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.

Brazil, however, is a major farm exporter and doesn't buy that many agricultural products from the U.S. "To have more clout with the US, [Brazil] said we don't want to just retaliate in agriculture," says David Orden with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Brazil wanted to hit the U.S. where it would hurt more: by breaking patents on pharmaceuticals and copyrights on movies and software. The WTO agreed, and gave Brazil the right to $260 million dollars worth of U.S. intellectual property this year.

'Bribing' Brazil

Orden says U.S. officials didn't want that to happen.

"Rather than have Brazil retaliate against us, the U.S. has found a way to bribe Brazil, if you will, to not impose that retaliation in exchange for various things the U.S. says it will do," he says.

The U.S. has agreed to establish a $147 million dollar fund to help cotton farmers in Brazil and other countries improve their production.

U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary Jim Miller says the settlement keeps the U.S. from getting shut out of Brazil, a growing market for American exports.

"Given the fact that the level of retaliation next year would likely increase, we have protected the market for a significant level of goods and intellectual property rights going forward," he says.

'A strange situation'

But David DeGennaro with the Environmental Working Group puts it this way: "It's really kind of ridiculous that American taxpayers are going to be subsidizing Brazilian cotton farmers just so that we can keep on subsidizing our own cotton farmers. It's really a strange situation."

Even Dave Salmonsen with the American Farm Bureau Federation which represents U.S. farmers is not an enthusiastic supporter of the U.S. aid to Brazil.

"You got into a negotiation, and that was what the Brazilians wanted, and the U.S. negotiators were willing to go along with that," he says. "It's a bit of a groundbreaking thing. Maybe in the future we'll see more of that, but I don't think we've seen this before."

U.S. subsidy programs for maize, wheat, and other crops are very similar to the cotton program. So, the U.S. could be in for another big fight at the WTO unless Congress cuts the subsidies. That would very likely spark a big political fight at home with the powerful farm lobby. But with the U.S. running record deficits, some say farm subsidies could face cuts when the legislation that governs them comes up for renewal in 2012.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid