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AGRICULTURE REPORT – August 13, 2002: American Trade Proposal - 2002-08-12

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The United States has proposed a plan to reform international trade rules for farm products. The United States is proposing to cut government assistance to American farmers. In exchange, it wants other countries to make deep cuts in their agricultural spending.

The proposal comes two months after President Bush signed a major farm bill. The new law increases government aid for farmers. It is estimated to cost one-hundred-ninety-thousand-million dollars over the next ten years. Critics say the measure forces down world crop prices and reduces the money earned by farmers in developing countries.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman described the new proposal last month at a meeting of agriculture ministers in Nara, Japan. The ministers were from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia and Japan.

She said the proposal would end all government assistance for farm exports over five years. The United States also urged other countries to cut taxes on food and agricultural imports. Mizz Veneman said the world average for such taxes is sixty-two percent. She said the proposal would reduce the tax rate to fifteen percent. It also would result in no tax higher than twenty-five percent. Currently, the average American tax on imported farm products is twelve percent.

The proposal also would limit government aid for farmers to five percent of the value of a country’s agricultural production. The United States currently spends nineteen-thousand-million dollars each year on such farm aid programs. The proposal would reduce the amount to ten-thousand-million dollars.

For the European Union, the decrease in farm aid would be even greater. It would drop from more than sixty-thousand-million dollars to twelve-thousand-million dollars a year. In Japan, the amount would drop from thirty-three-thousand-million dollars to four-thousand-million dollars a year.

E-U and Japanese officials have criticized the American proposal. They say it requires a great deal more effort from other countries than from the United States. However, the top farm officials from Australia and Canada expressed general support for the American position. American farm groups also expressed support for the proposal.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.