French farmers cry foul of WTO deal

1st August 2004, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, Aug 1 (AFP) - France said Sunday it was satisfied with a last-ditch agreement to salvage global trade talks but the country's farmers criticised the deal, saying it would not help to close the rich-poor divide.

GENEVA, Aug 1 (AFP) - France said Sunday it was satisfied with a last-ditch agreement to salvage global trade talks but the country's farmers criticised the deal, saying it would not help to close the rich-poor divide.

"The compromise reached at the WTO is satisfactory, balanced and constitutes an important step in the rounds of talks opened in Doha in 2001," junior foreign trade minister Francois Loos told AFP.

The World Trade Organization's ruling General Council adopted an agreement overnight that aims to cut subsidies to farmers in wealthy countries and bring down barriers to the multi-billion-dollar agricultural trade.

In a joint statement, Loos and French Agriculture Minister Herve Gaymard - who both attended the talks in Geneva - welcomed the deal as one that offers "noticeable improvements in the area of agriculture".

France - a major recipient of EU farm aid - had found itself isolated among its European Union partners as the sole hold-out at the talks, with the24 other EU ministers ready to back the compromise.

Several representatives of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, did not hide their irritation at the French position, telling AFP that Paris has adopted a "purely political" stance.

But Loos said of the eventual compromise: "We put forward our demands, and we were heard as the final agreement is more restrictive for the Americans.

Several of our European colleagues thanked us for that."

The deal aims to cut export subsidies, reduce domestic support and restrict export credits - a plan that would mainly affect wealthy European countries, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

"In the end, the thing that convinced our French friends was that it's a good deal for them," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

But in Paris, the president of France's main farmers' union FNSEA, Jean-Michel Lemetayer, said the deal "remains unbalanced despite substantial steps forward."

"Progress has been made thanks to the French government which fought to find European allies," Lemetayer told AFP, but added that the accord "is not going to change the face of the world."

French farm and anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove said the agreement was "far from restoring the balance" between rich and poor countries, adding: "The game is still in the hands of the United States and the European Union."

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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