Following his participation at the FAO Conference in Rome and a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings, EU Agriculture Commissioner Fischler struck a cautiously optimistic tone about the WTO farm trade talks. “The European Commission's post-Cancun reflection phase has come to an end. We have put on the table a comprehensive strategy how to kick-start the talks when the WTO meets in Geneva on 15 December. Here in Rome, I have got the impression that everybody seems to be ready to return to the negotiating table. And there seems to be a certain reckoning that Cancun was a missed opportunity, which left no winners but only losers, especially the developing countries. The EU is absolutely prepared to shoulder a bigger burden to make agriculture markets more open. But without properly addressing the complexities of farm support, without tackling protectionism and trade barriers not only in industrialised countries, but also among developing countries, without giving the poorest countries special treatment, we will not get a fair WTO deal”, he said at a news conference in Rome today.
Commissioner Fischler underlined that successful WTO farm negotiations had to pass the five following tests:
Developing countries have to get a better deal
“This WTO Round is not by coincidence called a Development Agenda. We stand by this objective. There should not be a shadow of doubt that the EU is ready to shoulder a bigger burden of agricultural trade liberalisation. All developed countries should grant completely duty and quota free access for exports from the 49 poorest countries in the world and they should give zero duty access to at least 50% of their imports from the remaining, economically more robust developing countries”, Mr Fischler stressed
“Give and take” is the name of the game
“Playing "all or nothing" may be a valid strategy for the last minutes of a Champions League game. But at WTO talks this does not work. Negotiations among 146 countries are about give and take. So when Cancun blew up, developing countries, who stand most to win from farm trade liberalisation, left Cancun empty handed. No considerable improvement of market access, no substantial cuts in trade-distorting farm support, no elimination of all forms of export promotion, no special treatment for them, nothing. In short, the G-19 scored a classic own goal. In recent months and weeks, the EU has repeatedly moved from its initial position. We have shown a lot of flexibility. We have reformed our farm policy, we have offered to eliminate export subsidies of interest to developing countries, we have softened our stance on geographical indications, etc.
But flexibility cannot be a one-way street or, maybe more appropriate for the demands of the G-19, a one-way highway. So far, they have been big on what they want to take, but short on what they are willing to give. We now need serious offers from the G-19”, he cautioned.
Reforms have to be recognised, not penalised
“The EU has come a long way. Until recently, trade-distorting support was clearly dominant in the EU's farm policy. This has completely changed, especially as a result of the June 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). If farm policy reform is to be recognised instead of penalised it must be reflected in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). If the different impact of different farm policies on world markets, prices and developing countries is ignored, why bother to reform at all?”, the Commissioner asked.
Substance has to prevail over slogans
“The EU has been confronted with the ultimate killer argument. “While most of the world's poor live on under a dollar per day the European cow receives more than twice this amount.” The trouble with this comparison is that it is not only false, it is also irrelevant for the issue it aims to address. The two dollars per cow polemic does not say anything about the impact of developed world farm support on the developing countries and trade. Not every explicit dollar or euro of subsidy in the developed world has the same effect on trade; not every implicit dollar or euro of market price support affecting trade comes from the developed world”, he continued.
The rich can't go it alone
“The farm policies of rich nations are not the only reason why developing countries have not reaped enough benefits from trade liberalisation. The World Bank says that 80% of the benefits from farm liberalisation would come from reductions in the barriers between poor countries themselves. Europe has an average farm tariff of only 10%, Brazil has 30% and the average tariff of all developing countries amounts to 60%. Consequently, not only rich countries, but also developing countries have to reduce their trade barriers for their own good! And we need to take care of the weakest developing countries. Not all developing countries are on the same level. Burkina Faso cannot compete with Brazil, Mali not with Thailand. More advanced developing countries have to do more than the least developed”, the Commissioner concluded.
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