WASHINGTON (DTN)--Senate Budget ranking member Kent Conrad, D-ND, said July 10 he told World Trade Organization agriculture negotiations chairman Stuart Harbinson at a Senate Finance Committee gathering that the United States "must receive a better deal for American agriculture in the next WTO trade talks" or the Senate will reject the agreement, and that Harbinson said senators should express their views at WTO headquarters in Geneva or at the trade talks in Cancun in September.

Harbinson met with members of the Senate Finance Committee July 10, and was scheduled to meet with Trade Representative Zoellick later. Harbinson was also scheduled to address a USDA-USTR agricultural advisory group July 10.

Conrad said he showed Harbinson the charts on U.S.-EU farm subsidies that he often uses on the Senate floor and explained that the European Union "is currently beating" the United States 87-to-one in terms of global export subsidies and outpacing the United States five-to-one in domestic subsidies, spending $277 per acre compared with $48 per acre in the U.S.

Conrad said he told Harbinson that Harbinson's current proposal to allow each country to make equal reductions from an unequal base "is not acceptable" and that Congress would not support an agreement that freezes the current EU advantages in place.

Conrad said Harbinson also got a "pretty good dose" of Senate discontent with his proposal from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-IA, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Max Baucus, D-MT, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR. Conrad said Harbinson told the senators his proposal was a draft, but that "the WTO works by consensus and if there was going to be a different outcome others are going to have to be persuaded."

A Conrad aide said that after Conrad left, Harbinson told the remaining senators that he had found it "valuable" to hear their views and said they should travel to Geneva so that negotiators from other countries could hear their views. Told that some senators intend to go to Cancun for the trade ministerial in September, Harbinson also said their presence "would be very positive and helpful," the Conrad aide said.

Harbinson could not be reached for comment.

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