Farmers fear WTO deal ending export subsidies

19th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 December 2005, BRUSSELS — Belgian farmers have reacted with concern to the trade deal reached in Hong Kong on Saturday in which the EU offered to end farm export subsidies by 2013. In what is hoped will pave the way for a global free trade treaty in 2006, both India and Brazil welcomed the deal to end subsidies by 2013. The EU simply said it was "acceptable".

19 December 2005

BRUSSELS — Belgian farmers have reacted with concern to the trade deal reached in Hong Kong on Saturday in which the EU offered to end farm export subsidies by 2013.
 
In what is hoped will pave the way for a global free trade treaty in 2006, both India and Brazil welcomed the deal to end subsidies by 2013. The EU simply said it was "acceptable".

Agreed on by 149 nations after six days of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, the targeted end to farm export subsidies is aimed at giving poorer countries a foothold in the European farming market.

However, the Belgian farmers union reacted with concern, warning that many farmers will be forced to walk off the land. Spokesman Roger Saenen said the deal would prove a "catastrophe" for European farmers.

He said farmers will be simply out competed: "We cannot compete against the prices of the low-income countries where they don't take into account hygienic, ecological and food safety regulations".

Belgian farmers receive EUR 1 billion in export subsidies from the EU every year, money they claim is vital to the sector's wellbeing.

Saenen said it was incomprehensible that the EU had agreed to end the subsidies, newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad' reported.

"They are holding a clearance sale. European agriculture was squeezed to death in Hong Kong," he said.

"There will also be little talk of Europe compensating its farmers either. In the new multiple-year budget, less and less money will go to agriculture as well."

Meanwhile, only modest progress was made in other key areas at the WTO talks in Hong Kong. Officials have admitted that much more work needed to be done.

Significant obstacles remain in the way of a comprehensive global trade agreement, BBC reported.

WTO director-general Pascal Lamy said the farm export subsidy deal had put efforts to secure a global trade treaty by the end of 2006 "back on track".
 
And "in a week of disappointments, it [the agreement] is no small prize. It is not enough to make this meeting a true success, but it is enough to save it from failure," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

However, the WTO will need to hold further talks on reducing import tariffs on agricultural produce and freeing up trade in industrialised goods after making no headway on these issues during last week's summit.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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