EU Commission head reassures Franceover farm subsidies

23rd July 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, July 23 (AFP) - The president of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, replying to French government concerns in a letter released on Friday, said EU negotiators would fight to defend European interests in World Trade Organization talks next week.

BRUSSELS, July 23 (AFP) - The president of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, replying to French government concerns in a letter released on Friday, said EU negotiators would fight to defend European interests in World Trade Organization talks next week.

The letter, sent late Thursday to French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, emphasised that a WTO work programme including a proposal to end agricultural export subsidies was a negotiable draft, rather than a final document.

Prodi also noted that France's European Union partners would agree to end farm subsidies only on condition that "export support measures by our trading partners which disturb the exchange markets" were also halted.

Raffarin wrote to Prodi on Wednesday expressing his government's "deeply serious concerns" about the proposal, prepared for a meeting of the WTO General Council to be held in Geneva next week.

In his reply, Prodi forecast that "the next days are certainly going to be hard" but said EU officials would fight "to draw up a negotiating framework which protects the interests of the European Union while meeting the hopes of developing countries".

Government support for farmers in rich countries has been blamed for depressing world prices and preventing farmers in the developing world from competing on world markets, and is seen as one of the major obstacles to completing global trade negotiations by the end of this year.

While the WTO draft was designed to galvanize the Geneva talks, scheduled for July 27 and 28, French President Jacques Chirac said it was "profoundly unbalanced to the detriment of the interests of the European Union".

In his reply to Raffarin, Prodi noted that "the Geneva talks are not the end of a round, but an intermediate stage, at which we will try to establish a negotiating framework".

Agreeing to the draft as a working document "obviously does not mean accepting it as it stands", he wrote.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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