ST. LOUIS -- The American Soybean Association today expressed frustration that the just-concluded World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Hong Kong did not provide more momentum on the issues of importance to U.S. soybean growers.

ASA warned that unless priority issues are achieved of significantly expanding market access to developing countries and ensuring that the trade-distorting practices of world-class developing country exporters are disciplined, little support for any eventual WTO agreement will be found among U.S. soybean growers.

"Unfortunately, the focus of the ministerial meeting was diverted away from the core issue of expanding real market access," said Ron Heck, ASA past-chairman, who participated in the Hong Kong Ministerial. "Instead, the European Union managed to shift attention away from its failure to offer the meaningful market access that is key to unlocking the negotiations, and developing countries were allowed to pursue a one-way trade liberalization agenda."

ASA and other U.S. commodity groups in Hong Kong were very concerned about the lack of tangible progress on expanding access to developing country markets. Developing countries comprise 81 percent of the world's population, and represent the future for growth in agricultural trade.

"Over the next 120 days, negotiators must achieve positive outcomes on the issues of real importance to U.S. soybean growers," noted Heck. "One key priority is expanding real market access opportunities in both developed and developing countries. Unless specific progress is made in negotiating greater access for farm products to developing country markets, U.S. soybean farmers simply will not support the reductions proposed by the United States in trade distorting domestic agricultural support programs."

Another important priority for soybean farmers is making sure advanced, net-agricultural exporting developing countries face disciplines similar to those the United States will face.

"Brazil, Argentina, and Malaysia are, for example, world-class exporters of soy products, palm oil, meat, and many other commodities," Heck said. "Yet they are allowed under current WTO rules to provide extensive domestic, export, and tax subsidies to their most competitive sectors as if these sectors were somehow disadvantaged in world trade.

"Unless additional disciplines on net agricultural exporting developing countries are included in each of the three pillars of the agriculture negotiations, soybean growers will have little enthusiasm for an overall WTO agreement," Heck said.

ASA continues to support the efforts of U.S. negotiators to achieve meaningful trade reform.

"In Hong Kong, U.S. negotiators did the best they could to keep bad things from happening and to preserve the opportunity for a big outcome early in 2006," concluded Heck. "ASA looks forward to working closely with U.S. negotiators to achieve a more ambitious agreement."

SOURCE: ASA news release.