EU farm cuts key to saving world trade talks: APEC

BUSAN (South Korea) — Asia-Pacific nations yesterday said cutting farm subsidies was the key to salvaging next month’s global trade talks, setting up a showdown with Europe over its state support for farmers.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 17 Nov 2005, 9:56 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 5:18 PM

With failure looming for December’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Hong Kong, the Asia-Pacific bloc piled the pressure on the European Union, which has already said it will make no more concessions on the matter.

“We call for the breaking of the current impasse in agriculture negotiations,” the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum said in a statement approved by foreign ministers and obtained by AFP.

It said the farm issue had to be addressed first to ensure progress at the WTO meeting on the so-called Doha round of trade talks in Hong Kong.

“Unless progress is made in this area, we cannot make progress in the round as a whole. Avoiding or compromising our ambition on this issue would mean we would lower expectations for the round as a whole.”

Asia-Pacific nations have been involved in an increasingly bitter war of words with the European Union, with Australia and the United States repeatedly urging the EU to make new concessions.

The EU’s system of financial support for the agriculture sector in the 25-member EU, known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), includes import tariffs and is in theory aimed at protecting the livelihoods of Europe’s farmers.

France, the top recipient of CAP subsidies, received 9.4 billion euros (11.3 billion dollars) in 2004, according to the French agricultural ministry.

The EU has refused to match a US offer on cutting farm subsidies, instead making a “bottom line” offer earlier this month to cut the bloc’s overall tariff rate from 23 per cent to 12 per cent.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on Tuesday ruled out any more concessions from the European bloc, and accused APEC members of grand-standing on the issue.

“I do not believe it will be helpful to the (WTO) talks to make a further offer on agriculture, because this would simply further unbalance the negotiations,” Mandelson said.

“I think it is better for APEC to use its gathering to create a platform for negotiation than for finger-pointing,” he said. EU officials this week have also insisted that a resolution to the impasse should not depend on agriculture alone, citing the opening up of the services and manufacturing sectors in developing nations as important.

In another indirect swipe at the EU, the APEC statement called for those countries with the biggest stake in the global trading system to make greater efforts to unblock the current impasse.

“We urge all other WTO members and especially those that have the largest stake in the global trading system and derive the biggest benefits therefrom to show the flexibilities needed to move the negotiations forward by and beyond Hong Kong.”

The statement, to be issued by APEC leaders including US President George W. Bush after their summit talks here on Saturday, said the WTO meeting in Hong Kong was a “critical step” on the path of growth and development.

“Significant progress must be made in Hong Kong in resolving still remaining considerable divergences, and a clear roadmap for the completion of the round by 2006 must be established,” said the statement.


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