In France, farm subsidies trump free trade

29th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

ZWETTEL, Austria, May 29, 2006 (AFP) - French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau ruled out changes on Monday to the European Union's system of farm subsidies, saying he would prefer that the Doha trade talks fail instead.

ZWETTEL, Austria, May 29, 2006 (AFP) - French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau ruled out changes on Monday to the European Union's system of farm subsidies, saying he would prefer that the Doha trade talks fail instead.

"I would prefer that the negotiations fail rather than negotiations that would raise questions about the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and its future," he told reporters in Austria.

"Europe does not have to make new concessions on agriculture" for the World Trade Association's (WTO) Doha round to be completed successfully, he said.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has suggested that the Union could improve an offer to open up its agricultural market if its trading partners were also ready to make concessions.

"Mandelson must stick to his mandate," Bussereau said, adding that the last "offer of October 28 is already the limit for France".

WTO talks in the Mexican resort of Cancun collapsed in September 2003 after poor countries had protested against farm subsidies in rich countries and high tariffs levied on agriculture imports from developing nations.

The latest round of WTO negotiations, known as the Doha round, is aimed at increasing international commerce by removing trade barriers to boost poor countries.

Negotiations are currently deadlocked with the US under pressure to cut its subsidies to farmers, while the EU is being asked to make deeper cuts in the tariffs imposed on imported farm products.

Trading partners had been hoping to finalise the round this year.

US officials have described France's hard line as unhelpful.

Austrian Agriculture Minister Josef Proell, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said that the EU had already made enough concessions and that it was know up to others to make offers.

"The main focus is on the USA to show flexibility," he said at an informal meeting of EU farm ministers in Austria. "But we are certainly not aiming at failure of the negotiations."

However he said it was unacceptable for "progress always to be made solely at the cost of the European Union."

US officials have said that Crawford Falconer, New Zealand's WTO ambassador who has been chairing agricultural talks in Geneva, is preparing to submit the new outlines of a trade round deal in the middle of next month.

But that will leave precious little time to sign, seal and deliver a global package to dismantle world trade barriers by the end of the year.

The US government would have just months to get a WTO deal through Congress before it loses its "fast-track" trading authority at the start of July 2007.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article