Australia attacks EU, France over farm subsidies

24th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, Oct 24 (AFP) - Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile launched a broadside against France and the European Union Monday, saying their refusal to slash farm tariffs risked global trade talks and cheated millions of the world's poor.

SYDNEY, Oct 24 (AFP) - Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile launched a broadside against France and the European Union Monday, saying their refusal to slash farm tariffs risked global trade talks and cheated millions of the world's poor.

Vaile, who is also deputy prime minister, said that stalled negotiations on the crucial question of farm subsidies threatened the Doha round of global trade talks due to be wrapped up at a World Trade Organisation meeting in December.

"These negotiations are now on the brink of collapse because the European Union is refusing to make a meaningful offer on reducing its barriers to imported farm products," he said in a speech in Sydney.

Vaile, who last week travelled to Geneva to meet officials from the United States, the European Union, India and Brazil to attempt to resolve the issue, singled out France for special attention.

"The round is now stalled. The responsibility lies squarely with the European Union and particularly France, one of the world's wealthiest countries," he said.

"They need to understand that they are threatening the future of global trade and cheating millions of the world's poor out of new hope."

Vaile said that the next round of World Trade Organisation talks, to be held in Hong Kong, could be postponed if progress was not made soon.

While he did not want this happen, he said "the European Union and France would need to account for their actions before the parliament of world opinion."

Opening up farm trade is expected to raise prices of commodities such as beef and sugar, offering an escape from poverty for millions of farmers in the developing world.

Australia wants the highest subsidisers of agriculture, such as the European Union, Japan and the United States, to make the biggest cuts.

Vaile said although the United States could also go further than its proposal to cut its agricultural subsidies by 60 percent, it would still reduce tariffs by 50 to 90 percent.

"In contrast, the European Union has put forward a disappointing offer. It has offered to cut tariffs by 20 to 50 percent," he said.

Vaile said the EU would have to make cuts of between 60 and 95 percent to be acceptable.

"In the European Union, farmers receive a third of their income from government subsidies. Beef and veal producers get more than 70 percent of their income from subsidies," he said.

"A typical cow in the European Union receives a government subsidy of 2.20 US dollars a day. The cow earns more than 1.2 billion of the world's poorest people."

The EU has said it will make a new offer by Thursday.

Vaile also argued that agricultural reform would have a more significant impact on world poverty than aid and debt relief.

"It's not enough for them to provide aid and debt relief when the benefits of liberalising trade are so much greater," he said.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Monday called on all nations to make an effort to prevent the failure of the WTO talks in Hong Kong.

"Everyone has work to do," he said in a Financial Times opinion piece.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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