"But farm groups here -- whose support will be critical in getting any agreement through Congress -- make it clear they will balk at any deal that does not do enough for U.S. exports.
"It's unfair to expect that the United States would just unilaterally offer to reduce subsidies" without reciprocal reductions in tariffs, said David Coia, a spokesman for the USA Rice Federation, one of the many industry groups saying their support for the round hinges on, in Coia's words, "market access, market access, market access."" (thanks Leila)
In a nutshell, the World is asking the US to reduce its farming subsidies in order to come closer to a "free market". The US is balking and is trying to say that subsidies are not the problem, it is market access, i.e. how good you are at finding and opening new markets. The US and the EU and the West in general open those markets through political bullying to impose side deals such as bilateral Free Trade Agreements like the ones it is signing with Lebanon, Jordan, etc (look through the blog for many, many references to FTAs). Of course this whole discussion is between the big players, and none of it takes into consideration the farm sectors in Africa or other poor countries.
Incidentally, there is nothing new with the imposition of lopsided Free Trade Agreements on weaker countries: In 1838, the Ottomans, who were in free fall, signed the Balta-Liman treaty with the British government. The treaty limited custom duties on British goods to a maximum of 3%. It also requested the Ottoman Empire to free internal and external trade, and imposed special fiscal facilities for British nationals.
More about that in a forthcoming post...