Canada's WTO Case Against U.S. Agricultural Support
Canada’s WTO Case Against
U.S. Agricultural Support
Updated September 17, 2007
Specialist in Agricultural Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Canada’s WTO Case Against
U.S. Agricultural Support
On June 7, 2007, the Canadian government requested the establishment of a
World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel to consider two charges
against U.S. farm programs — first, that the United States has exceeded its annual
commitment levels for total aggregate measure of support (AMS) in each of the years
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005, and second, that the U.S. export credit
guarantee program operates as a WTO-illegal export subsidy. The United States
blocked Canada’s request from proceeding at the June 21, 2007, meeting of the
WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). According to WTO rules, a panel can only
be blocked once, implying that a second request by Canada would have to be honored
at a subsequent DSB meeting. However, to date Canada has refrained from pursuing
its panel request at subsequent biweekly DSB meetings. Canadian officials appear
to be deliberating about the merit of further action, particularly in light of a similar
case against U.S. AMS limits being pursued by Brazil.
Earlier in the year (January 2007), Canada took the first step in instituting a
WTO dispute settlement case when it requested consultations with the United States
to discuss three specific concerns. In addition to the two aforementioned charges
against U.S. farm programs, Canada initially included a third charge — that U.S. corn
subsidies had caused serious prejudice to Canadian corn producers in the form of
market price suppression in Canadian corn markets during the 1996 to 2006 period.
However, the corn serious-prejudice charge was dropped from Canada’s panel
request. Several other WTO members — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the European
Communities (EC), Guatemala, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Uruguay — joined
Canada’s initial request for WTO consultations as interested third parties.
If successfully pursued and litigated, this case could affect all U.S. agricultural
policy, since the charges against the U.S. export credit guarantee program and AMS
limit extend to all major program crops. Should any eventual changes in U.S. farm
policy be needed to comply with a WTO ruling in Canada’s favor, such changes
would likely involve action by Congress to produce new legislation. Congress is
presently revisiting U.S. farm legislation (which expires this year) and could
potentially address some of the issues raised by Canada’s WTO challenge. For
example, the House-passed version of new farm legislation, H.R. 2419, includes
legislation that would bring the export credit program into compliance with WTO
rules, but ignores the charge of excessive U.S. AMS outlays.
This report provides background, as well as details of the WTO dispute
settlement case. It will be updated as events warrant. An abbreviated version of this
report is available as CRS Report RS22724, Canada’s WTO Case Against U.S.
Agricultural Support: A Brief Overview.
Overview and Current Status.....................................1
Background on the U.S. and Canadian Corn Sectors..................2
Previous Action by Canadian Corn Growers.........................3
Canadian AD/CV Duty Investigation of U.S. Corn................5
Canadian Government Proposes AD/CV Duty Rebate Program......6
CITT Removes AD/CV Duties on U.S. Corn....................7
Canadian Corn Producers Review Their Options.................7
Canadian Request for WTO Consultations..........................8
First Allegation: U.S. Corn Subsidies Cause Serious Prejudice......9
Second Allegation: U.S. Export Credit Guarantees Act as Illegal
Third Allegation: U.S. Total Domestic Support Exceeds Its
U.S. Response to Canadian Allegations...........................13
Canada Requests a WTO Panel to Review Case.....................14
Potential Implications of WTO Case..............................14
Role of Congress.............................................15
List of Figures
Figure 1. Canada’s Corn Supply and Use, 1990 to 2007....................4
Figure 2. U.S. Government Payments in Support of Corn Production,
FY1990 to FY2007............................................4
Figure 3. The Canadian Dollar Has Strengthened Against the U.S. Dollar
Figure 4. U.S. AMS Outlays — With and Without Direct Payments.........12
Figure 5. U.S. Monthly Average Farm Price for Corn Has Risen Sharply
Since September 2006.........................................13
Canada’s WTO Case Against
U.S. Agricultural Support
Overview and Current Status
The United States and Canada conduct the world’s largest bilateral trade
relationship, with total merchandise trade (exports and imports) reaching $533.7
billion in 2006 (including $25.4 billion in agricultural trade).1 However, this2
economic trade success story is not without its disagreements. For example, the two
countries engaged in a dispute over wheat trade for several decades that included
both an anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing (CV) duty case and a World Trade
Organization (WTO) case brought against various aspects of Canada’s wheat trading3
practices by U.S. wheat interests.
In 2005, the two countries extended their agricultural disagreement to the corn
sector when Canadian corn producers sought legal action for alleged unfair
subsidization and dumping of U.S. corn in Canadian markets. Canada’s International
Trade Tribunal (CITT) ultimately ruled on the 2005 AD/CV duty case in favor of the
United States. However, Canadian corn producers continued to press their concerns
upon the Canadian government about perceived unfair subsidization of U.S. corn.
On January 8, 2007, the Canadian government requested consultations with the
United States under the official WTO dispute settlement process concerning three
charges against U.S. farm subsidies — first, that U.S. corn subsidies caused serious
prejudice to Canadian corn producers in the form of market price suppression in
Canadian corn markets during the 1996 to 2006 period; second, that the United States
has exceeded its annual commitment levels for total aggregate measure of support
(AMS) in each of the years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005; and third, that
the U.S. export credit guarantee program operates as a WTO-illegal export subsidy.
Canada’s request represented the first step in instituting a formal WTO dispute
settlement case — an official dispute settlement case number is assigned (DS357)
and the explicit rules and timetables of the WTO dispute settlement process are set
in motion. This process was temporarily suspended on May 2, 2007, when the
Canadian International Trade Minister, David Emerson, announced that the Canadian
government would hold off on taking any further action in its WTO dispute
1 For more information, see CRS Report RL33087, United States-Canada Trade and
Economic Relationship: Prospects and Challenges, by Ian F. Fergusson.
2 For a discussion of U.S.-Canada trade issues, see CRS Report 96-397, Canada-U.S.
Relations, Carl Ek, Coordinator.
3 For more information, see CRS Report RL32426, U.S.-Canada Wheat Trade Dispute, by
settlement proceeding against U.S. corn subsidies until at least the end of the year,
pending the outcome of current Doha Round trade negotiations.
However, the Canadian government resumed its WTO case against the United
States on June 7, 2007, when it requested the establishment of a WTO dispute
settlement panel to consider the last two of the three initial charges against U.S. farm
programs (the specific charge against U.S. corn subsidies was dropped). The United
States blocked Canada’s request from proceeding at the June 21, 2007, meeting of
the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). According to WTO rules, a panel can
only be blocked once, implying that a second request by Canada would have to be
honored at a subsequent DSB meeting. However, to date Canada has refrained from
pursuing its panel request at subsequent biweekly DSB meetings. Canadian officials
appear to be deliberating about the merit of further action, particularly in light of a
similar case against U.S. AMS limits being pursued by Brazil.
Although the specific charges against U.S. corn subsidies have been dropped
from Canada’s WTO case, they were a catalyst in the development of this case. As
such, this report provides background on both the U.S. and Canadian corn sectors as
well as the historical development of their corn trade dispute. In addition, it provides
a discussion of the potential implications of the case for U.S. farm policy.
Background on the U.S. and Canadian Corn Sectors
The United States is the world’s leading producer and exporter of corn. Since
corn exports have represented over two-thirds of world corn trade. Canada is also
an important producer and consumer of corn. However, Canada’s average annual
production of 8.8 million metric tons (MMT) since 2000 is markedly smaller than
U.S. average annual production of 261 MMT.4
Although it is grown widely throughout the world, corn grows best in temperate
conditions with deep, fertile soils such as exist in the U.S. Corn Belt. Corn’s
agroclimatic requirements, coupled with Canada’s northerly latitudes, limit the extent
of Canadian corn planting to the more southerly regions of Ontario and Quebec. As
a result, growth in Canada’s corn production has been limited almost entirely to yield
(i.e., bushels per acre) enhancement. In contrast, strong and steady domestic demand
for corn — driven by the livestock (dairy, swine, and poultry) and ethanol sectors —
has outpaced domestic production and made Canada a net importer of corn, primarily
from the United States, since the early 1990s (Figure 1).
The elimination of tariffs on corn trade between the United States and Canada,
first under the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and later under the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have facilitated corn imports into
Canada from the United States and strengthened the integration of the North
American livestock feeding industry. Since 1989, over 99% of Canada’s corn
imports have come from the United States. During the 1990s, U.S. corn exports to
4 USDA, Production, Supply and Distribution (PSD) Online database, April 10, 2007, at
[ ht t p: / / www.f a s.usda.gov/ psdonl i ne/ psdHome.aspx] .
Canada averaged less than 1 MMT per year; since 2000, they have averaged almost
The surge in imports of U.S. corn occurred at a time when U.S. government
program payments to the corn sector were also growing (Figure 2). During the
1990s, U.S. corn program payments averaged $2.8 billion per year; since 2000 they
have essentially doubled in size to an average of $5.5 billion per year. The increases
in both U.S. corn program payments and imports of U.S. corn drew the attention and
ire of Canada’s corn-producing sector, which claimed that U.S. corn exports were
being facilitated by large U.S. government payments and being sold into Canada at
less than the cost of production.
Previous Action by Canadian Corn Growers
In August 2005, the Canadian Corn Producers — a coalition composed of the
Ontario Corn Producer’s Association, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures
commerciales du Québec, and the Manitoba Corn Growers Association —
announced that they would pursue action on three separate fronts against what they
perceived as “unfairly traded U.S. grain corn imports.”6
First, they asked the Canadian government to include U.S. grain corn imports
on the list of products targeted for retaliation by Canada against the United States for
the U.S. refusal to repeal the Byrd Amendment.7 The Byrd Amendment had been
ruled to violate WTO obligations in a dispute proceeding filed by Canada and other
WTO members. Congress eventually repealed the Byrd Amendment in February
2006 with a several-month transition period, and a U.S. federal court ruled in July
2006 that the Byrd Amendment did not apply to imports from Canada. However, in
mid-2005, Canada was particularly concerned about the economic effects of the Byrd
Amendment because, at that time, it appeared that as much as $4 billion in anti-
dumping (AD) and countervailing (CV) duty deposits on Canadian softwood lumber
could eventually become available for distribution to U.S. lumber producers under8
5 USDA, FAS Online, U.S. Trade Internet System, January 12, 2007, at [http://www.fas.
6 Ontario Corn Producers’ Association, News Release, August 31, 2005, at [http://www.
7 The “Byrd Amendment,” or the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA),
was a U.S. law providing for the distribution of import duties collected as a result of
antidumping or countervailing duty orders to petitioners and other interested parties in the
investigations that resulted in the orders. For more information on the Byrd Amendment,
see CRS Report RL33045, The Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (“Byrd
Amendment”), by Jeanne Grimmett and Vivian Jones.
8 For more information, see CRS Report RL33752, Softwood Lumber Imports from Canada:
Issues and Events, by Ross Gorte and Jeanne Grimmett.
Figure 1. Canada’s Corn Supply and Use, 1990 to 2007
199 0 199 5 200 0 200 5
Note: data are on a corn marketing year (Sep-Aug) basis.
Source: USDA, PSD database, August 10, 2007.
Figure 2. U.S. Government Payments in Support of Corn
Production, FY1990 to FY2007
1990 1995 2000 2005
Data include fixed direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, loan deficiency
payments, marketing loan gains, market loss payments, and payments under
Source: USDA, Farm Service Agency , Table 35- Net Outlays by Commodity
and Function, downloade Sept. 6, 2007; FY2007 is projected.
Second, the Canadian Corn Producers asked the Canadian government to
commence WTO dispute settlement proceedings by requesting consultations with the
United States regarding the alleged “illegality of U.S. grain corn subsidies.” Third,
Canadian corn producers filed a domestic trade remedy complaint under Canada’s
Special Import Measures Act (SIMA) for the alleged “injurious subsidization and
dumping of imports of U.S. corn.”
Dumping occurs when goods are sold to importers at prices that are less than
their selling prices in the exporter’s domestic market or at unprofitable prices. If
proven, dumping is addressed by the imposition of AD duties. Subsidizing occurs
when imported goods benefit from government financial assistance in the exporting
country. If proven, subsidizing is addressed by the imposition of CV duties.
Canada’s SIMA protects Canadian producers from the damaging effects of both of
these unfair trade practices.
Canadian AD/CV Duty Investigation of U.S. Corn. On September 16,
2005, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced that, in response to
the trade remedy complaint filed by the Canadian Corn Producers, it was beginning
an investigation into the alleged dumping and subsidizing of grain corn from the
United States. (Unprocessed grain corn includes whole-kernel grain corn and grain
corn that has been milled to a limited degree, i.e., milled grain corn, regardless of its
physical form, that preserves all the constituent parts of whole kernel grain corn and
is chemically identical to whole kernel grain corn. The investigation excluded seed
corn, sweet corn, and popping corn.)
At the same time that CBSA was conducting its investigation, Canada’s
International Trade Tribunal (CITT) also began a parallel investigation to determine
whether imports of U.S. corn were harming Canadian producers.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and then-U.S. Trade Representative
Rob Portman issued a joint statement (September 16, 2005) expressing their
disappointment that Canada was proceeding with a formal AD/CV duty investigation,
and said that the United States believes that Canada’s petition calling for the
investigation lacked “sufficient evidence of injury” to justify initiating such an9
investigation. In addition, they pointed out that U.S. corn exports to Canada had
actually declined during the two preceding years (2003/04 and 2004/05), while
Canadian corn production had increased (see Figure 1).
U.S. officials argue that a 46% decline in Canadian imports of U.S. corn from
2002/03 to 2003/04, coupled with a steadily strengthening Canadian dollar
(Figure 3) that makes imports cheaper ceteris paribus, suggested that economic
forces other than U.S. dumping or subsidies may have accounted for increased
Canadian imports of U.S. corn and weakened Canada’s case.10 In addition, 20
Canadian corn users from the livestock, food processors, and ethanol sectors voiced
their disagreement with the Canadian Corn Producers’ accusation that imports of
9 USDA News Release No. 0382.05, September 16, 2005.
10 World Perspectives, Inc., “Canada Moves to Investigate U.S. Corn,” by Dave Juday,
September 19, 2005.
U.S. corn were either dumped or subsidized and expressed their opposition to this
case moving forward.11
On November 15, 2005, the CITT announced its determination that there was
reasonable evidence that the dumping and subsidizing of unprocessed U.S. grain corn
caused injury to Canada’s domestic industry.12 On December 15, 2005, the CBSA
announced its preliminary determination of dumping and subsidizing of U.S. grain
corn. As a result, provisional duties of $1.65 per bushel were imposed payable on
imports of U.S. corn at any time on or after December 15, 2005, including a
provisional AD duty of $0.58 per bushel and a provisional CV duty of $1.07 per
bushel. (All amounts are in U.S. dollars.)
Figure 3. The Canadian Dollar Has Strengthened Against the
U.S. Dollar Since 2002
19 96 19 98 20 00 20 02 20 0 4 20 0 6
Source: Pacifica Exchange Rates Service.
Canadian Government Proposes AD/CV Duty Rebate Program.
Following numerous complaints by Canadian corn users, the Canadian government
(mid-December 2005) announced a duty-relief program and a duty-drawback
program designed to help the livestock and other Canadian corn user groups obtain
at least a partial rebate of the $1.65 per bushel punitive duty.13 The duty rebate
programs gave an exemption to the tariff for Canadian corn users who imported corn
from the United States for use as an input, then sent the finished product back outside
11 Statement of the U.S. Trade Representative, December 16, 2005.
12 CITT, Dumping and Subsidizing: Determination, Preliminary Injury Inquiry No. PL-2005-
13 Cattlenetwork.com; “Farmers to Get Rebates On U.S. Corn Tariff,” December 23, 2005.
the country. A corn user would apply for the duty rebate as the imported corn was
re-exported in the form of a value-added product. Exports were not restricted to the
United States, but exports had to be made within four years of the release date of the
Some market analysts expressed initial concerns that the duty rebate program
would contribute to increased U.S. imports of Canadian agricultural products,
particularly live hogs and processed pork products, since Canada’s pig industry was
a major user of imported U.S. corn.14 U.S. trade officials voiced an additional
concern. They suggested that the duty-drawback program could result in U.S. trade
action against Canada based on how such a duty-rebate program was implemented.
CITT Removes AD/CV Duties on U.S. Corn. On March 15, 2006, the
CBSA announced a final determination of dumping and subsidizing, and stated that
it would continue to impose the $1.65 per bushel tariff on imports of U.S. corn until
the CITT concluded its investigation of injury to Canadian producers. Shortly
thereafter, on March 17, 2006, the United States requested WTO dispute settlement
consultations with Canada concerning Canada’s imposition of provisional AD/CV
duties on unprocessed U.S. grain corn. In its WTO request, the United States’
arguments included an accusation that Canada’s CITT had relied on weak causality
between imports and injury, while ignoring other candidates more likely causing
injury, such as exchange rate movements and unusually large world corn harvests
leading to weak international corn prices.
On April 18, 2006, the CITT announced its final determination, reversing its
earlier position, by issuing a finding of no injury regarding the importation of U.S.
grain corn.15 Pursuant to this final finding, the preliminary AD/CV duties of $1.65
per bushel were removed and all duties already assessed were to be returned.
Similarly, the United States’ motivation for pursuing its WTO case against Canadian
AD/CV duties was ended.
Canadian Corn Producers Review Their Options. Shortly after the
CITT’s final decision, the Canadian Corn Producers announced that they were
reviewing their options for pursuing further legal action against imports of U.S. corn.
At that time, such options included requesting a NAFTA binational panel review or
possibly encouraging the Canadian government to pursue a WTO dispute settlement
case. A NAFTA panel review would involve a review of whether Canadian trade
authorities (in this case, the CITT) had correctly interpreted and applied existing
Canadian law in reaching their negative injury determination. In contrast, a WTO
case — which can only be brought by the Canadian government, not a private party
such as the Canadian Corn Producers — would likely be pursued under the
Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) and would
14 ProFarmer, Vol. 34, No. 4, “So... Did You Know They Could Get the $1.65 Back?”
January 28, 2006.
15 CITT, Dumping and Subsidizing: Finding, Inquiry No. NQ-2005-001, Unprocessed Grain
Corn, April 18, 2006, at [http://www.citt-tcce.gc.ca/dumping/inquirie/findings/nq2f001
involve an investigation of whether “serious prejudice” occurred in the marketplace
as a result of U.S. domestic corn program payments.
Canadian Request for WTO Consultations
On January 8, 2007, the delegation of Canada to the WTO requested
consultations with the delegation of the United States under Article 4.4 of the
Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes
(DSU) concerning three separate allegations involving certain aspects of U.S.
commodity programs in general, and the U.S. corn program in particular.16 This
action by Canada represented the first step in instituting a WTO dispute settlement
case with the United States: the assigning of an official dispute settlement case
number (DS357), setting in motion the explicit rules and timetables of the WTO
In making its charges, Canada clearly sought to build on Brazil’s successful
WTO challenge of various provisions of the U.S. cotton program (dispute settlement
case DS267).18 Another potential motivating factor was domestic political concerns
emanating from a weak coalition government responding to pressure from corn
producing interests following the unfavorable CITT AD/CV corn duty ruling. In
addition, Canada has a general interest in influencing the 2007 U.S. farm bill debate
in favor of lower amber-box-type support.19 In a government news release that
coincided with the Canadian government’s request for WTO consultations, Canadian
Trade Minister, David Emerson, said, “We hope to see the U.S. live up to its WTO
obligations, particularly given that it has the opportunity to do so when it rewrites its
Farm Bill this year.”20 A news report suggested that two additional factors
motivating Canada’s case against U.S. corn programs include the current suspension
of Doha Round negotiations (suspended July 24, 2007) and the settlement of a
softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States which freed up
Canadian government trade attorneys to refocus on the WTO litigation.21
16 Request for Consultations by Canada, United States - Subsidies and Other Domestic
Support for Corn and Other Agricultural Products, WT/DS357/1 (January 11, 2007).
17 For more information, see CRS Report RS20088, Dispute Settlement in the World Trade
Organization: An Overview, by Jeanne Grimmett.
18 For more information, see CRS Report RL32571, Background on the U.S.-Brazil WTO
Cotton Subsidy Dispute, and CRS Report RS22187, U.S. Agricultural Policy Response to
WTO Cotton Decision, both by Randy Schnepf.
19 The amber box includes those policies that result in market and trade distorting support.
For a discussion of proposed reductions in WTO domestic support commitments, see CRS
Report RL33144, WTO Doha Round: The Agricultural Negotiations, by Charles Hanrahan
and Randy Schnepf.
20 Government of Canada, News Release, January 8, 2007, No. 2 at [http://www.inter
national.gc .ca/tna-nac/wto-ds-e n.asp].
21 Inside U.S. Trade, “Johanns Says U.S. Will Defend Farm Programs from Canadian
Challenge,” January 12, 2007.
Following Canada’s request for consultations, several other WTO members —
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the European Communities (EC), Guatemala,
Nicaragua, Thailand, and Uruguay — officially requested to join the consultations
as interested third parties.22 News reports speculated that this growing alliance of
interested third parties could add to pressure for the United States to further expand
its agricultural subsidy reduction proposal in the current Doha Round of WTO trade
negotiations, especially in the corn sector.
In its official request for consultations, Canada raised three explicit charges
against U.S. farm programs. Each of these is discussed below.
First Allegation: U.S. Corn Subsidies Cause Serious Prejudice.
Canada contended that the subsidies and domestic support provided to the U.S. corn
sector have caused adverse effects to Canadian corn producers in the form of serious
prejudice and the threat of serious prejudice to the interests of Canada during the
on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement). Article 5(c) defines
adverse effects as including serious prejudice to the interests of another WTO
member. Article 6.3(c) states that serious prejudice applies when the effect of a
subsidy is a serious price undercutting by the subsidized product, price suppression,
price depression or lost sales for a like product in the same market.
In its consultation request, Canada listed the subsidies and domestic support
programs that it contends supported the U.S. corn sector during the 1996 to 2006
period. These included commodity programs from both the 1996 and 2002 Farm
Acts: marketing loan payments (i.e., marketing assistance loans, market loan gains,
loan deficiency payments, commodity certificates, commodity certificate exchange
gains, and commodity loan interest subsidies), the production flexibility contract
(PFC) payments of the 1996 Farm Act, and the fixed direct payments (DP) and
counter-cyclical payments (CCP) of the 2002 Farm Act.24 In addition, U.S. Market
Loss Assistance (MLA) payments provided under six different emergency
supplemental acts authorized by Congress between 1998 and 2001,25 and benefits
22 Official WTO documents are Australia, WT/DS357/2 (Jan. 22, 2007); Guatemala,
WT/DS357/3 (Jan. 23, 2007); and Brazil, WT/DS357/4 (Jan. 23, 2007); Argentina,
WT/DS357/5 (Jan. 24, 2007); the EC, WT/DS357/6 (Jan. 24, 2007); Uruguay, WT/DS357/7
(Jan. 24, 2007); Nicaragua, WT/DS357/8 (Jan. 24, 2007); and Thailand, WT/DS357/9 (Jan.
23 For a description and interpretation of Articles 5(c) and 6.3(c) of the SCM Agreement, see
CRS Report RL33697, Potential Challenges to U.S. Farm Subsidies in the WTO, by Randy
Schnepf and Jasper Womach.
24 For more information on commodity programs see CRS Report RS21999, Farm
Commodity Policy: Programs and Issues for Congress, by Jim Monke.
25 For more information on Market Loss Assistance payments (or “market loss” payments),
see CRS Report RL31095, Emergency Funding for Agriculture: A Brief History of
Supplemental Appropriations, FY1989-FY200, by Ralph M. Chite.
received under the agricultural export credit guarantee programs26 were included in
the list of support programs contributing to serious prejudice.
The Canadian government included an Annex with its official consultation
request.27 The Annex, entitled “Statement of Available Evidence,” included a
lengthy list of websites providing information on U.S. commodity programs, but
provided no discussion of the specific program outlays other than the general
discussion included in the consultation request.28 However, in a related news release,
Canada contends that in 2005/2006, the United States accounted for 41% of global
corn production and 68% of global corn exports, while U.S. support to corn
producers has averaged nearly $9 billion in each of the previous two (Sep/Aug)
marketing years, 2004/2005 and 2005/2006, resulting in what Canada claims is a
significant distortion of its domestic corn prices.29 A CRS examination of available
USDA data suggests that average U.S. corn subsidies for the two marketing years
cited by Canada were about $7.5 billion, including a one-year high of $8.8 billion in
Second Allegation: U.S. Export Credit Guarantees Act as Illegal
Export Subsidies. Canada argued that the U.S. export credit guarantee program
operates as a WTO-illegal export subsidy. This charge stems from a previous WTO
case, the U.S.-Brazil Cotton case (DS267), where a WTO panel found (and was
upheld by an Appellate Board on appeal) that U.S. export credit guarantees
effectively function as export subsidies because the financial benefits returned by
these programs failed to cover their long-run operating cost.31 Furthermore, the panel
found that this applies not just to cotton, but to all commodities that benefit from
U.S. commodity support programs and receive export credit guarantees. As a result,
export credit guarantees for any recipient commodity are subject to previously
scheduled WTO spending limits.
Third Allegation: U.S. Total Domestic Support Exceeds Its WTO
Limit. Canada contended that the United States has provided support to its
agricultural sector in excess of its scheduled WTO commitment levels. For the
United States, its total spending limit for “amber box” programs (i.e., programs that
26 For more information on U.S. export credit guarantees, see CRS Report RL33553,
Agricultural Export and Food Aid Programs, by Charles Hanrahan.
27 Annex: Statement of Available Evidence, WT/DS357/1, pp. 5-8 (January 11, 2007).
28 Such a statement is required under Article 7.2 of the SCM Agreement.
29 Government of Canada, News Release, January 8, 2007, No. 2.
30 “Table 35, CCC Net Outlays by Commodity and Function,” USDA, Farm Service Agency;
downloaded on Sept. 6, 2007; available at [http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=
about&s ubj ect=landing&t opic=bap-bu-cc].
31 Found to violate Annex I(j) of the SCM Agreement, WTO Legal Texts, p. 267, which
identifies as an export subsidy, “The provision by governments (or special institutions
controlled by governments) of export credit guarantee or insurance programs, of insurance
or guarantee programs against increases in the cost of exported products or of exchange risk
programs, at premium rates which are inadequate to cover the long-term operating costs and
losses of the programs.”
are trade and market distorting), as listed in its WTO country schedule of
commitments was $19.9 billion in 1999 and $19.1 billion in all subsequent years.
Each WTO member has agreed to notify its annual domestic support outlays to the
WTO for verification that it is adhering to its spending commitments. The United
States has notified to the WTO its annual farm program spending through 2001. In
these notifications, U.S. domestic support outlays remain well within U.S. WTO
spending commitments. Also in its WTO notifications, the United States has notified
its Production Flexibility Contract (PFC) payments as fully decoupled and green box
compliant.32 This is an important distinction because the green box contains only
non-distorting program payments and is not subject to any limit.
Canada’s claim that the United States has exceeded its total spending limits
hinges largely on a previous WTO panel ruling from the U.S.-Brazil cotton case
(DS267). In that case, the WTO panel found (and was upheld by the Appellate Body)
that U.S. payments made under the PFC and Direct Payment (DP) programs do not
qualify for the WTO’s green box category of domestic spending, because of their
prohibition on planting fruits, vegetables, and wild rice on covered program
acreage.33 Instead, the panel ruled that payments under these programs should be
counted as domestic subsidies directly affecting crop production (i.e., distorting) and
should therefore be included with other commodity program outlays to evaluate
whether the United States has met or exceeded its “peace clause” limits.34 However,
the panel did not make the obvious extension that the PFC and DP programs should
also be counted as amber box programs, but instead was mute on this point.
Canada does make the extension to amber box by arguing that, because PFC and
DP payments do not conform with paragraph 6(b) of Annex 2 of the AA (which
states that such payments should not be related to producer behavior such as
compliance with a planting restriction), they should be included in U.S. amber box
payments. Furthermore, Canada argues that several other U.S. program payments
were incorrectly notified as either green box (e.g., several types of disaster assistance
payments) or as non-product-specific AMS (crop market loss assistance payments)
where they easily qualified for exclusion from amber box limits under the non-
product-specific de minimis exemption.
In addition, Canada argued that the as-yet-to-be-notified CCP payments (made
under the 2002 Farm Act) should similarly be counted against the U.S. amber box
spending limit of $19.1 billion. In contrast, the United States, as part of its Doha
policy reform proposal, recommends that CCP payments be eligible for notification
32 Decoupled means it has no influence on producer’s decision-making process; green box
compliant means it adheres to the terms and conditions of Annex 2 of the Agreement on
33 For more information on these restrictions see USDA, Farm Service Agency, Fact Sheet,
Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment Program Wild Rice, Fruit, and Vegetable Provisions,
February 2003, at [http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/facts/html/fav03.htm].
34 For more detail, see CRS Report RL32571, Background on the U.S.-Brazil WTO Cotton
Subsidy Dispute, by Randy Schnepf.
as blue box payments, where they would be subject to a different limit than the amber
Because the United States has only notified through the year 2001, no program
spending under the 2002 Farm Act — including both the DP and CCP programs —
has yet been notified. However, Canada charges that, when PFC, DP, and CCP
payments for all covered crops — wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, upland
cotton, rice, soybeans, and other oilseeds — are included in the U.S.’s amber box,
then the total outlays exceeds the spending commitment in each of 1999, 2000, 2001,
2004, and 2005. CRS calculations based on available USDA data suggest that
inclusion of the otherwise excluded direct payments in the U.S. AMS total exceeds
the spending limit in four of the years indicated (Figure 4).36 However, Canada did
not provide the specific details on its year-by-year determinations, so direct
comparisons are not possible.
Figure 4. U.S. AMS Outlays — With and Without Direct Payments
based on USDA data; 2009-2012 are CRS calculations based on FAPRI baseline
Source: USDA, PSD online data base, August 10, 2007.
35 Blue box payments are defined as “production-limiting” types of payments. For more
information see CRS Report RL33144, WTO Doha Round: The Agricultural Negotiations,
by Charles Hanrahan and Randy Schnepf.
36 These are crude calculations that ignore the timing of payments. USDA’s FSA reports
outlay data on a fiscal-year basis, while WTO AMS calculations are generally made on a
U.S. Response to Canadian Allegations
In response to Canada’s recent request for consultations on U.S. subsidies, U.S.
Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, declared that the United States would
vigorously defend U.S. farm programs against any possible WTO challenge by
Canada.37 A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) was critical of
Canada’s action, particularly in light of the significant increase in international corn
prices since September 2006. The USTR spokesman said, “Given the dramatic
improvement in the market over the past year, we’re surprised that Canada believes
that our corn programs are now causing harm in breach of WTO rules.”38 However,
current market conditions are unlikely to influence any WTO investigation (should
the case reach that point) since Canada is specifically challenging U.S. subsidies for
the period 1996 through 2006 when corn prices were substantially lower (Figure 5).
In another response to Canada’s recent request for consultations, the American
Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) stated that Canada’s request for a WTO
consultation should have “no bearing” on the U.S. farm policy debate.39
Figure 5. U.S. Monthly Average Farm Price for Corn Has Risen
Sharply Since September 2006
1996 199 8 2000 2002 200 4 2006
*Adjusted for direct payment per bushel.
Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
37 Inside U.S. Trade, “Johanns Says U.S. Will Defend Farm Programs from Canadian
Challenge,” January 12, 2007.
38 International Herald Tribune, “Argentina, Brazil Join WTO Complaint Against U.S. Corn
Subsidies,” January 22, 2007.
39 AFBF press release, “Statement by Bob Stallman, President, AFBF, Regarding Canadian
Request for WTO Consultations on Subsidies,” January 8, 2007.
Canada Requests a WTO Panel to Review Case
On February 7, 2007, Canada and the United States held consultations
concerning the three charges raised by Canada. Under WTO rules, for subsidy
complaints alleging adverse effects, a minimum 60-day consultation period is
required before a country can ask for WTO to establish a panel.40 Although the
consultations failed to resolve the dispute, the Canadian International Trade Minister,
David Emerson, announced on May 2, 2007, that the Canadian government would
temporarily hold off on taking any further action in its WTO dispute settlement
proceeding (DS357) against U.S. corn subsidies until at least the end of the year,
pending the outcome of current Doha Round trade negotiations.41
On June 7, 2007, the Canadian government (reversing its earlier remarks of
postponing further action during 2007) requested the establishment of a WTO dispute
settlement panel to consider two of its initial three charges against U.S. farm
programs — first, that the United States has exceeded its annual commitment levels
for total aggregate measure of support (AMS) in each of the years 1999, 2000, 2001,
2002, 2004, and 2005, and second, that the U.S. export credit guarantee program
operates as a WTO-illegal export subsidy. The serious prejudice charge against U.S.
corn subsidies was dropped, probably in large part because corn market prices have
risen so dramatically since mid-2006 (Figure 5) and are projected to remain high for42
at least the next ten years.
The United States blocked Canada’s request at the June 21, 2007, meeting of the
WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). According to WTO rules, a panel can be
blocked only once, implying that a second request by Canada if made at one of the
subsequent biweekly DSB meetings would have to be honored. However, to date
Canada has refrained from pursuing its panel request. Canadian officials appear to
be deliberating about the merit of further action, particularly in light of a similar case
against U.S. AMS limits and the export credit program being pursued by Brazil.
Potential Implications of WTO Case
While a WTO case can result in punitive sanctions being authorized, the
proceedings of a formal case can take many months, and sometimes years, to reach
a conclusion.43 For example, the U.S.-Brazil cotton case was initiated by Brazil’s
request for WTO consultations on September 27, 2002. A panel was established
nearly six months later on March 18, 2003. The panel’s final report was delivered
to the DSB on September 8, 2004. The case was appealed and the Appellate Body’s
final report was adopted by the DSB on March 21, 2005, nearly 30 months after the
40 Article 7.4, SCM Agreement.
41 “Holding Up on the US Corn WTO Case,” Washington Trade Daily, Vol. 16, No. 88, May
42 For long-run commodity price projections, see USDA’s Agricultural Baseline Projections;
available at [http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Baseline/].
43 For more information, see CRS Report RS20088, Dispute Settlement in the World Trade
Organization: An Overview, by Jeanne Grimmett.
initial request for consultations.44 However, the case is not yet finalized as a WTO
compliance panel is currently reviewing (under request from Brazil) whether the
United States has fully complied with the panel’s rulings. The WTO compliance
panel issued its preliminary determination to the disputing parties in July 2007.
However, the report will not be released publicly until October 2007, thus extending
the length of the U.S.-Brazil cotton case to over five years.
Many market analysts and news media suggest that the U.S.-Canada AMS
dispute is a harbinger of future foreign challenges against U.S. commodity programs.
If Canada were ultimately to move forward with a WTO panel and were to
successfully litigate its case, it could affect most U.S. program commodities, since
the charges against the U.S. export credit guarantee program and AMS limit extend
to all major program crops. PFC and DP program compliance with WTO green box
rules would likely involve some type of policy reform including adjustment, if not
full removal, of the planting restriction on fruits, vegetables, and wild rice on acres
receiving direct payments.
With respect to the ruling that export credit guarantees operate like illegal export
subsidies, compliance through policy reform would likely involve incorporating user
fees that reflect the market risk associated with each loan guarantee. For example,
this could be achieved by removing the 1% cap on user fees charged under the export
credit guarantee program. The 1% fee cap prevents charging market-based fees and
contributes to the export credit guarantee program operating as a WTO-illegal export
subsidy. The House-passed version of the 2007 farm bill, H.R. 2419, includes reform
of the export credit program by eliminating the 1% cap on user fees, but it does not
address the issue of direct payments not being fully decoupled and green-box
Role of Congress
Congress could potentially address the issues raised by Canada in new 2007
farm bill legislation. As already mentioned, the House-passed H.R. 2419 addresses
the export credit charge, but does not address Canada’s claim of excessive U.S. total
AMS outlays. The Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to mark up farm
legislation, thus leaving open the possibility that some type of reform may be
included concerning the base-acre planting restrictions linked to direct payments and
the resulting AMS total.
During the past year, Agriculture Secretary, Mike Johanns, has been advocating
that a new Farm Act should be designed to make U.S. farm policy be “beyond
challenge.” The Administration proposal for U.S. farm policy reform (released on
January 31, 2007), if incorporated into a new Farm Act, potentially could alleviate
many of Canada’s concerns while minimizing the likelihood of future WTO
challenges.45 The proposal includes removal of the planting restriction on base acres
44 This timeline is discussed in more detail in CRS Report RL32571, Background on the
U.S.-BrazilWTO Cotton Subsidy Dispute, by Randy Schnepf.
45 USDA News Release No. 0020.07, “Johanns Unveils 2007 Farm Bill Proposals,” January
receiving direct payments. It also includes adjustments to the export credit guarantee
program to make them more compatible with WTO rules. Finally, the proposal
includes adjustments to price-contingent commodity programs, namely the marketing
loan program and the CCP, that would likely make them more WTO compliant and
potentially lower their vulnerability to challenges under “serious prejudice.”
Given the importance of agricultural trade in the U.S. agricultural economy,
Congress will likely be monitoring developments in the WTO AMS dispute. The
House and Senate Agriculture Committees regularly hold hearings on agricultural
trade negotiations. For example, such hearings were held on April 28 and May 19,
2004.46 Among the trade issues discussed during these hearings, both the U.S. Trade
Representative and representatives of major program commodity groups provided
testimony on U.S. participation in international trade negotiations.
If the ongoing Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations were to successfully
conclude with a text for further multilateral trade reform, there is the possibility that
the 110th Congress would hold hearings and be in consultation with the
Administration concerning the possible renewal of fast-track or Trade Promotion
Authority (TPA) legislation, which expired on July 1, 2007.47 Any such hearings and
consultations could be a major vehicle for Members to express their views on the
U.S.-Canada AMS trade dispute, on the negotiating issues that it raises, and on the
potential implications for U.S. farm policy.
46 Hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives 108th Congress,
Second Session, April 28 and May 19, 2004, Serial No. 108-29, at [http://agriculture.house.
gov/ hearings /108/10829.pdf].
47 For more information, see CRS Report RL33743, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA):
Issues, Options, and Prospects for Renewal, by J. F. Hornbeck and William H. Cooper.