Multilateral Trade Negotiations
The World Trade Organization (WTO) (www.wto.org) is located in Geneva, Switzerland, and was established on January 1, 1995 as a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was formed after the Second World War. It was created by the Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94) and as of August, 2012, had 157 member countries. Its functions are to administer WTO trade agreements, provide a forum for trade negotiations and disputes, monitor national trade policies, and provide technical assistance and training for developing countries. Under the WTO, the U.S. is required to import 12-15% of its domestic sugar market from 41 countries. The USDA sets the access level (TRQ) for each country based on market needs, but a minimum access level is established by the WTO that must be achieved, whether the market needs the sugar, or not.
Negotiations under the Doha Round (launched in 2001) were held at a ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, December 13-18, 2005. Trade rules that are established by the WTO have the potential to determine the direction and provisions of U.S. domestic farm policy—specifically, the 2012/2013 Farm Bill. (Also see: www.ustr.gov)