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Grassley addresses Wolfowitz comments on trade talks

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, has written all leaders of the world's leading industrial nations, known as the G8, urging them to revive the stalled Doha Round trade talks when they meet July 17 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The United States is one of the members of the G8 group. Wolfowitz was chosen as president of the World Bank after being nominated by President George Bush.

The letter is posted on the World Bank Web site. "We can work to lift millions from poverty, boost developing country income, improve global market access and reduce taxpayer and consumer costs for all -- or allow the whole effort to collapse, with harm to everyone," the letter says. (You can access the letter here.)

In an interview with Reuters, Wolfowitz criticized the amount of money the United States spends on farm subsidies. He also wants to see greater market access for developing nation products in wealthier regions of the world.

The World Bank provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It is governed by a board of contributing nations and the United States is the Bank's largest supporter.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Committee on Finance, responded to a question asked in this week's conference call with farm broadcasters regarding the World Trade Organization Doha Round negotiations and comments made by Wolfowitz. The transcript follows:

Dan Looker, Successful Farming magazine:

It appears the Doha round isn't going very well, it seems to be at a stalemate. Some press reports say that Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank would like the U.S. to make more concessions to get the talks going. I wondered if we did do that and did not get any more concessions on market access and agricultural trade, do you think Congress would approve any new World Trade Organization agreement that might come out of those talks?

Senator Chuck Grassley:

Well, first of all, as a person that's concerned about trade legislation and chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction on it, I would ask Paul Wolfowitz, who I have a great deal of respect for, to keep his nose out of trade issues. He's got a bank to run that's got plenty of problems -- he's got a full time job there. Now, maybe he was giving an off-the-cuff remark to some, but if he made a made a major speech along this line I very much resent his getting involved. We're working through Susan Schwab. He's a friend of the Administration. He should work through Susan Schwab and he's undercutting her by making such statements. We've been trying to fortify the position of the United States which was that we have kept Doha alive by putting a really aggressive agenda forward last October. We have been beat up by several countries, particularly Brazil and India, since then, because we ought to do more. Doha's alive because of us and we ought to negotiate. And in answer to your question, I've been very clear that I'm not going to bring in a Doha "light" agreement to my committee, or another word that's used is should we pass a minimalist agreement and say we've done something when we've really done nothing. What we have to do for agriculture if we're going to give up our LDPs and loan programs, is we've got to have market access. And that means that the 62 percent tariff that the world has against agricultural products where we have about 12 percent, have to very dramatically come down, and that reduction cannot be circumvented by a lot of products being listed as sensitive, so there could be exceptions to even a general reduction of tariffs. We've got to take a strong position; I think we have taken a strong position. My advice to Susan Schwab was go to Geneva -- she did two weeks ago -- and just think of two things; sit, in other words, sit and listen, and the second one is, if you sit and don't like what you hear, then walk. And I think basically that's what she's done, she's done right, and in 15 minutes I'm going to have an update from her of where she thinks we are. But, I'll give her the same advice as I did three weeks ago before she went to Geneva.

Looker: Just to follow up, I believe Paul Wolfowitz's comments were in a letter to the White House.

Grassley: Well, then, if he's trying to advise the President I think that's okay, but he's trying to give the President some advice, but it shouldn't have been made public then because by the publicity that you know about that I don't, then you know, he's undercutting our position.

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, has written all leaders of the world's leading industrial nations, known as the G8, urging them to revive the stalled Doha Round trade talks when they meet July 17 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The United States is one of the members of the G8 group. Wolfowitz was chosen as president of the World Bank after being nominated by President George Bush.

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