Brussels Proposes Big Cuts To Farm Subsidies

By Agence France-Presse The European Union on Dec. 16 proposed to transform poor nations' access to its farming markets in the latest round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks and called on the rest of the world's wealthier nations to follow suit. The plan unveiled by the European Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- proposed cutting EU agricultural export subsidies by 45%, domestic aid to farmers by 55% and customs tariffs by 36%. WTO negotiations on freeing up farming trade are due to begin toward mid-2003, with the European Commission negotiating on the EU's behalf. "This is a win-win proposal," European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said. "It is fair to others, particularly developing countries, as it takes into account their development needs." But opponents hit back at the "vacuous public relations document" produced by Brussels, noting the proposals would see wealthy nations implement the market-opening measures over six years from 2006. "It is absurd that farmers in the world's poorest countries should have to wait until 2013 for the EU to halve export subsidies," said Justin Forsyth, policy director with British aid charity Oxfam. The European Commission proposals would see the EU give duty-free and quota-free access for all farm exports from the "least developed countries." If adopted by the WTO, the Brussels plan would also make wealthy EU countries give access at zero duty to at least 50% of developing countries' imports and guarantees so that they can ensure "food security." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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