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May 21, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
May 21, 2004

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was among 11 U.S. senators and congressmen who met with Mexican officials last week to discuss trade issues. The Mexican delegation voiced its country's long-standing complaint that U.S. agricultural subsidies make it impossible for Mexican farmers to compete with American farmers. They also claimed the subsidies violate the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

According to the Associated Press, which covered the meeting, Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, said the subsidy issue shouldn't focus strictly on the United States. America will eliminate all of its subsidies when the rest of the world eliminates theirs, he said. He also pointed out that the world has $300 billion worth of subsidies per year and America makes up only about $19 billion of that amount.

Sen. Sessions said while he understands the global concerns surrounding farm subsidies, he's not willing to single out American farmers.

"I understand the difficulty the Mexicans are facing, but we will not put our farmers in an untenable position facing competitors with huge subsidies," Sessions said.

The U.S. delegation included Sessions and other senators and representatives from New Mexico, Connecticut, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona and Texas.

In addition to subsidy issues, the U.S. and Mexican leaders discussed bioterrorism, immigration concerns and border security.The World Trade Organization recently issued a ruling that the U.S. cotton program violates free trade agreements, specifically that its export enhancement payments give American farmers an unfair advantage.

Federation Director of National Affairs Keith Gray said the Alabama Farmers Federation and other interested parties such as the National Cotton Council will continue to consult with U.S. officials and monitor the appeal of that ruling.

"We have received a commitment from the Trade Representative's office that it will appeal the ruling if it is in fact adverse to U.S. farmers, and we appreciate the representatives' hard work," Gray said. "It is important to note that the WTO ruling does not immediately affect U.S. farm policy."

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