U.S. Defends Farm Subsidies At World Summit

By Agence France-Presse The United States on June 10 strongly defended its policy of farm subsidies, which developing countries have attacked as exacerbating hunger and poverty worldwide. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, speaking at a news conference at the United Nations World Food Summit in Rome, rejected criticism that the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to U.S. farmers had protectionist aims. "Criticism on protectionism is misplaced," Veneman, who leads the U.S. delegation to the meeting, said of the 10-year, $180 billion U.S. farm bill, which became law last month. Veneman stressed the United States, already the largest food aid donor worldwide, was committed to a pledge made six years ago at the first food summit to halve global hunger by 2015. "We have pledged to do even more in the years ahead to help developing countries reduce the scourge of hunger in their nations so they too can bring hope and health to their people," she said. But Veneman's defense of the farm bill will likely not go down well among leaders of the developing world, who have said the subsidies violate free-trade rules. African leaders say subsidies and elevated tariffs in the developed world have kept out their products and are one of the reasons for poverty and mounting hunger, which threatens 13 million people in southern Africa alone. "We urge that all issues blocking our access into the markets of the developed world have to be addressed," South African President Thabo Mbeki told delegates, bluntly calling for "speedy movement" on the matter. Veneman said U.S. tariffs on agricultural products were far lower than in the European Union and Japan, and well within the limits set by the World Trade Organization. The U.S. spends some $19 billion annually on farm subsidies, while in Japan the figure stands at $31 billion and in the EU it reaches $62 billion, she said. The U.S. said it continued within the WTO to back the elimination of all farm export subsidies. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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