WASHINGTON--Saying the need for new markets for America's agricultural products has never been greater, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman June 22 called for the launch of a new round of global trade talks and urged Congress to grant the President expedited trade negotiating authority.

"Agriculture is more reliant on exports than almost any other sector of our economy," Stallman said. "Significant barriers to global agricultural trade are in place throughout the world and must be eliminated. World Trade Organization negotiations are our best opportunity to eliminate the unfair trading practices that prevent U.S. agriculture from reaching its full potential in world markets."

Despite the fact that a new round of negotiations were not launched two years ago in Seattle as expected, Stallman, said he is encouraged that WTO negotiations are underway, noting that "nothing is more important to agricultural trade" than to launch a new trade round this year.

"We are fortunate that negotiations are underway to further liberalize world trade in agriculture," the farm leader said. "But, these negotiations will mean very little if a new round of World Trade Organization talks is not launched at the ministerial meeting in Qatar this November."

Speaking at a news conference sponsored by the AgTrade coalition, a a group of more than 100 organizations dedicated to increasing agricultural trade, Stallman said President Bush must have the authority to negotiate freely if agriculture is to reap any benefits.

"We need Trade Promotion Authority to give our negotiators credibility at the bargaining, table and to make progress in the WTO negotiations," he said. "We object to using trade agreements as a weapon to make our trading partners comply with certain labor and environmental standards, or to use sanctions and other trade-restrictive measures as enforcement tools. Other avenues exist to achieve these important societal goals."

Stallman reiterated his pledge to help the White House obtain Trade Promotion Authority and "re-establish the United States as the leader in world trade."

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