Chirac slams WTO proposal on agriculture

21st July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 21 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday a recent WTO proposal on agricultural trade aimed at re-launching global trade liberalization talks was currently "unacceptable."

PARIS, July 21 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday a recent WTO proposal on agricultural trade aimed at re-launching global trade liberalization talks was currently "unacceptable."  

"I want the (European) commission to do everything to substantially re-balance this text, which is unacceptable in its current form," Chirac told a cabinet meeting in a statement later released by his office.  

"France wants the Doha round to be completed but would not be able to give its backing to negotiations worked out on such a basis," he said.  

"This proposal is profoundly unbalanced to the detriment of the interests of the European Union."  

The World Trade Organization last week released a draft work program aimed at galvanizing negotiations to reduce global trade barriers, the broad outlines of which were approved in the Qatari capital Doha in November 2001.  

The Doha round is scheduled to conclude by the end of the year. But progress has ground to a near-halt on several issues, notably government support for farmers in rich countries that is held responsible for depressing world prices and preventing farmers in the developing world from competing on world markets.  

WTO member states will have a chance to review the draft at a meeting of the WTO's ruling General Council scheduled for July 27 and 28 in Geneva. The outcome of the talks next week are considered crucial to the future of the Doha round.  

In its draft work program the WTO called for commitments from all WTO members "ensuring the parallel elimination of all forms of (agricultural) export subsidies ... by a credible end date."  

But Chirac on Wednesday maintained that "in the agriculture domain the principle of parallelism in the treatment of all forms of export support is in particular not respected."  

In the agricultural debate, the United States has been pressing hard for the elimination of export subsidies. The European Union has agreed to scrap such support but only on condition that the United States take steps to eliminate its export credits and export credit guarantees, which the EU says likewise amount to trade-distorting subsidies.  

Chirac also argued that the "interests of the poorest countries, notably African cotton producers, are ignored even though the justification for this round is development."  

Cotton producers in Africa and elsewhere have repeatedly demanded that the Doha round include provisions for reducing subsidies paid to cotton growers in rich countries, particularly the United States.  

In Brussels Friday a spokesman for the European Union's executive commission, Gregor Kreuzhuber, described the WTO text on agriculture as a step in the right direction but said it needed to be more precise.  

"We say that we want to see the elimination of export subsidies and the elimination of trade-distorting elements of other export competition tools, and there the text has to become much clearer," he said.  

Kreuzhuber added that it should also lock the United States into reforming farm support.

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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