John Bruton, European Union Ambassador to the United States, met today with the president and other members of the Michigan Farm Bureau. During a visit at Horning Dairy farm in Manchester, Bruton talked about the agricultural trade relationship between Europe and the United States and the prospects for the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization.

"One of my jobs is to try to explain the European perspective to American opinion formers like the Farm Bureau," he said. "But it also entails that I explain the concerns of the Farm Bureau members here in Michigan and across the United States to people in Brussels."

Discussing farming in Europe and the United States, Bruton said: "You have vast fertile lands here and we recognize that the United States will remain a major agricultural exporter in the future, more than we will be."

Speaking of the Doha trade talks, Bruton pointed to a number of agriculture concessions the European Union has already tabled, including a 70 percent cut in trade distorting agricultural subsidies and a complete elimination of the much criticized export subsidies by 2013.

"The European Union is moving aggressively away from assisting production with pocket funds," he said. "We have moved from a situation in the 1980's where our aid was mainly based on price support and export subsidies, to a point where almost 90% of the EU's direct aid to farmers is non-trade distorting as it will be decoupled from production at the end of the reform process. But that is something that takes time. We have a program for doing it. We have certain budgetary periods we have to respect. Just as the farm bill is seen as a contract with American farmers here, the seven-year budget perspective of the European Union is seen as a form of contract with Europe's farmers."

Bruton said the EU offer on the table for the Doha negotiations also provides significant levels of new market access.

"It is now time for other countries to step up to the plate," he said. "We have no plans to make any further offers in agriculture trade but will look to emerging economies to see if they will lower their barriers to manufactured goods and services."

Bruton said he is optimistic that the United States, the EU and other WTO partners will be able to narrow their differences on agricultural trade so that " ... hopefully an agreement can be achieved by the end of this year, even though it is not a certainty."

As part of the timeline agreed in Hong-Kong to successfully conclude the round, an April 30 deadline has been set for arriving at formulas for cutting tariffs on agricultural products and manufactured goods and for reducing trade-distorting farm subsidies.

"The EU is determined to contribute to a fair and market-based trading system for agricultural products in a way that gives credit to the EU for its efforts to reform its agricultural policy and that does not undermine the preferential access of the world's poorest countries to the EU," said Bruton.

Source: Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S.