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Trade Ambassador pursuing action against Canada

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The Chief Agriculture negotiator for the U-S Trade Representative says the North Dakota Wheat Commission's case against the Canadian Wheat Board is progressing on several fronts.

But Ambassador Allen Johnson says the Wheat Commission's suggestion for tariff rate quotas may defeat the purpose of further actions and negotiation.

Johnson met with a group of North Dakota farmers this week. He says the Trade Representative is pursuing action before the World Trade Organization, as well as initiating talks with Canada over the actions of the state-run Wheat Board.

Neal Fisher is the Administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. He says the Commission wants the Bush Administration to impose tariff-rate quotas on Canadian wheat coming into the U-S.

"We need something that will demonstrate to our producers that the Administration or the U-S government in general is capable of defending its trade laws. I don't think it's any surprise to anyone that the recurring or most popular remedy that keeps surfacing is the tariff-rate quota or some limitation at the border."

But Johnson says he is skeptical that will happen.

"The concern that we have is that a tariff rate quota would not be consistent with our WTO obilgations, and that it wouldn't be sustained. During this exact same period, we're trying to build international coalitions, keeping the focus on the Canadian Wheat Board's practices, and how they are inconsistent with world trading systems and objectives. Instead, if we did this, we would be put in a defensive position, of trying to defend a position that we will ultimately lose at."

Johnson says his visit with North Dakota farmers was very helpful in understanding the problems with Canadian wheat. He says the Bush Administration is committed to ending the state-owned grain trading entities, like the Canadian Wheat Board.