- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

President Bush, facing a June deadline to restart the embattled Doha round of world trade talks, said he will tell European leaders next week that they must relent on agriculture subsidies.

Although admitting that “it’s tough sledding right now” to complete the next round of World Trade Organization talks, Mr. Bush said dropping subsidies on agriculture, services and manufacturing would benefit poorer nations and help reduce global poverty.

“We’re ready to make the move — on agriculture and services and manufacturing — but we expect other nations to do the same thing,” Mr. Bush said at the Initiative for Global Development’s 2006 summit, promising to take that message when he visits Austria and Hungary next week.

Also yesterday, Mr. Bush signed several measures, including the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, the Miner Act and a proclamation establishing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument.

In signing the broadcast legislation, Mr. Bush said parents must take the lead in controlling what their children watch, but he said broadcast companies also must play a role — and have been failing in recent years.

“Broadcast programming has too often pushed the bounds of decency,” Mr. Bush said, citing a study that said TV’s use of profanity during the 8-9 p.m. hour increased 95 percent from 1988 to 2002. “In other words, the language is becoming coarser during the times when it’s more likely children will be watching television. It’s a bad trend, a bad sign.”

He also said complaints to the Federal Communications Commission have increased from hundreds in 2000 to hundreds of thousands today.

“In other words, people are saying, ‘We’re tired of it, and we expect the government to do something about it,’” he said.

The bill he signed increased the penalties the FCC can levy per violation of decency standards from $32,500 to $325,000.

“By allowing the FCC to levy stiffer and more meaningful fines on broadcasters who violate decency standards, this law will ensure that broadcasters take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.”

On the trade agenda, Mr. Bush goes to Vienna, Austria, next week for the U.S.-EU summit. He said he will push his subsidies message to the European nations, which are balking at a broad agreement. The WTO has set a deadline to reach a preliminary deal, but European officials have said they do not think the end-of-the-month deadline is final.

The Bush administration under U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, and her predecessor, Rob Portman, have been pushing for the broader agreement. But the president’s speech yesterday elevates the stakes and the pressure to complete an agreement.

Talks have been stalled since October, when the United States made its ambitious proposal to cut subsidies and tariffs. The European Union proposed smaller cuts, and the middle proposal, from the so-called Group of 20 countries, proposes major cuts in developed countries’ tariffs but shallower cuts for developing nations.

“Countries in Europe have to make a tough decision on farming. And the G-20 countries have to make a tough decision on manufacturing,” Mr. Bush said.

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