French farm minister questions WTO role in farm sector

18th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier questioned the worth of the World Trade Organisation in dealing with farming and food issues.

   BRUSSELS, March 18, 2008 - French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier
on Monday questioned the worth of the World Trade Organisation in dealing with farming and food issues, as the current Doha round of talks founder.
   "If there is no agreement in May or June there will be a pause" in the
world trade talks as the US presidential election approaches, Barnier told
journalists in Brussels following a meeting with his fellow EU farm ministers.
   In that case the talks could be resumed later "in another form," he added.
   "From a personal point of view, the question I ask myself is, 'is the WTO
really the place to discuss questions on agriculture and food?'," he told a
press conference.
   "One could imagine there might be other specific forums on foodstuffs and
agriculture, taking into account the specific nature of the sector which does
not apply to tools or services," he added, without naming the bodies he was
referring to.
   "But for the time being we are in the middle of (WTO) negotiations which we
accept and which are very difficult."
   The Doha round of multilateral trade liberalisation talks was launched in
the Qatari capital Doha in November 2001 but has foundered ever since in
disputes between developing and industrialised nations.
   Developing countries have been pressing for greater access to agricultural
markets in the industrialised world. Developed nations are in return seeking a
better deal for their manufactured products on developing country markets.
   EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson warned last month that the talks face "a high risk of failure."
   France, anxious to protect its farming sector, has led calls in Europe to
minimise concessions made in the WTO talks on reducing import tariffs and
subsidies for agriculture.


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