Industrial Giants Urge Farm Trade Breakthroughs

By Agence France-Presse Several top international corporations on Aug. 22 urged major trading nations to concentrate on liberalizing agriculture instead of seeking global investment guidelines and competition rules in deadlocked world trade talks. Board members and chief executives of Deutsche Bank, Swiss-based food giant Nestle, U.S. drug company Pfizer and Dutch group Unilever issued a statement calling for breakthroughs on farming and on rules defining poor countries' access to cheaper medicines at a World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, next month. "Significant breakthroughs are required on key issues if the goals of the Doha Development Agenda are to be met on the agreed timetable, by end 2004 or shortly thereafter," the statement on behalf of the International Business Council's trade task force said. Calling for "visionary and generous leadership" mainly from the United States, the European Union and Japan, the company bosses said progress in Cancun would stimulate faster and sustained growth in poor countries. They also said it would reinvigorate international trade, "which is the single most important factor in driving economic growth and securing prosperity." The companies want the 146 WTO members to agree on "clear and ambitious frameworks for removing damaging trade barriers in agriculture and manufacturing." That should include the rapid phase out of all rich country farm subsidies and progressive cuts in tariffs on farm products of "at least 50%," with the highest tariffs cut the most, they added. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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