WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (Reuters): The United States (US) has taken 'significant' steps to reform cotton subsidies in line with a world trade ruling, US Trade Representative Rob Portman said yesterday, and the delay in implementing the legislation should not distract from broader trade reform talks.
"We believe negotiation, not litigation, is the way to go ... and we should focus our reform efforts on Doha," Portman told a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the trade talks, referring to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) round.
Brazil, a rising competitor in the world cotton market, won a WTO ruling in March that lavish US cotton subsidies unfairly distorted world trade. Brazil is the No. 2 exporter and the US is No. 1.
Congress has yet to enact reforms to comply with the WTO ruling. Although Brazil agreed in July not to seek sanctions while the United States acted on two key US cotton export programmes, it said the deadline for action on some other US supports paid to cotton growers was Wednesday.
"We put that legislation in right at the deadline and now Brazil has until today to respond. My hope is that we can move this forward and just simply solve the problem," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.
Asked if the cotton legislation could be attached to the agriculture appropriations bill currently under consideration, Johanns said: "I don't know what the right process is, but it does need to happen."
"We faced the WTO ruling, we aggressively defended the cotton programme -- we lost and we can't make the case everybody else needs to live by the WTO while we wink at this," Johanns added.