Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

USTR Announces Deal w/ Brazil to Avoid Sanctions Over Cotton

Source: Market News International

Published April 6, 2010

World Trade Organization (WTO)

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration announced Tuesday it has reached agreement with Brazil over a cotton subsidies dispute that will head off over $800 million in sanctions on U.S. products, the first stage of which were due to be implemented Wednesday.

Brazil, with approval of the World Trade Organization, was ready to impose $591 million worth of tariffs on U.S. products this week. The second stage of sanctions -- the unprecedented $238 million against U.S. intellectual property, including violating pharmaceutical patents -- were expected by the end of the month.

"I am pleased that our teams have been able to make substantial progress towards the goal of a negotiated settlement which would avoid the imposition of countermeasures against U.S. trade, including U.S. exports and intellectual property rights," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.

"We now have a clear path forward, one that is in the best interest of both the United States and Brazil," Kirk said. "This demonstrates how our two countries, working together, can solve problems."

While this agreement avoids immediate sanctions it does not resolve the dispute and the U.S. pledged to continue negotiating ahead of the next U.S. Farm Bill.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the joint statement with the USTR, "I am also pleased that our path forward respects our Farm Bill process and the role of Congress in shaping our commodity programs. I look forward to working with Congress and Brazil to crafting a long-term, mutually-agreeable solution to this dispute that meets the needs of American farmers, workers and consumers."

The cotton dispute is a long-running source of friction with Brazil. In 2005 and again in 2008, the WTO ruled that certain U.S. agricultural subsidies are inconsistent with free trade rules.

The latest ruling Aug. 31, 2009, authorized Brazil to go ahead with sanctions, including "cross-sectoral countermeasures" outside of agricultural goods and to include intellectual property and services.

A U.S. team lead by Deputy USTR Miriam Sapiro and USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller met in Brasilia last week to hammer out an interim agreement to avoid sanctions.

The United States agreed to work with Brazil to establish a fund of approximately $147.3 million per year "to provide technical assistance and capacity building," until the passage of the next Farm Bill or until a final agreement is reached, USTR said.

The United States also agreed to take steps to declare the State of Santa Catarina as free of foot-and-mouth and other diseases, a move that would open the door to fresh beef can be imports from the area, USTR said.