Australian FM lashes French stubbornness

3rd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, Nov 3 (AFP) - Austalian foreign minister Alexander Downer has accused French farmers of "holding the international trade system to ransom" by refusing to allow significant cuts to European Union agricultural subsidies.

SYDNEY, Nov 3 (AFP) - Austalian foreign minister Alexander Downer has accused French farmers of "holding the international trade system to ransom" by refusing to allow significant cuts to European Union agricultural subsidies.

Downer said France's stance on farm subsidies could jeopardise the crucial Doha round of global trade talks facing a decisive World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Hong Kong in December.

He said the French government should have accepted a US offer to slash its agricultural subsidies if the EU followed suit.

"The French government has failed to take advantage of the US offer which represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that ought to be grasped," Downer said in remarks reported by the Financial Times. "It will be bad for the EU's standing in the world if, in effect, it cripples the Doha trade round."

Downer said if the Doha round failed to deliver on its aim of removing trade barriers between the WTO's 148 member nations, Australia would shift its long-term priority to creating a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region.

The EU has refused to match the US offer on cutting farm subsidies, instead making a "bottom line" offer last week to cut the 25-nation bloc's highest farm tariffs by 60 percent and the lower tariffs by 35 to 60 percent, almost halving the overall tariff rate from 23 percent to 12 percent.

World Bank experts estimate developing countries need at least a 75-percent cut in the rich world's farm tariffs to make the Doha round meaningful.

Australia will join trade representatives from Brazil, the EU, the US and India next week for last-ditch talks in Geneva and London on securing a broad agreement that can be submitted for approval at the Hong Kong meeting.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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