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Last Updated: Monday, 24 February, 2003, 17:47 GMT
Chaos at WTO farm talks
Pig sty
Talks over agricultural trade hit a trough
Talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to open up the agricultural sector to free trade have descended into a slanging match.

A 26-page draft document proposed all export subsidies be eliminated over a nine-year period and suggested a 60% cut in import duties.

The draft was supposed to form the basis of the next round of global trade talks, but some WTO members claimed it was too ambitious while others said it did not go far enough.

The US rejected the plan, saying it "doesn't provide the reform needed" and would maintain high levels of protectionism.

The European Union - the arch protagonist of the US in farm talks - had already dismissed the draft for spreading the cuts "very unevenly amongst the developed countries".

Dumping on the poor

About 50 non-governmental groups (NGOs) called for the plan to be rejected because it would maintain dumping.

"Developing countries face a world in which developed countries, particularly the EU and US, continue to dump under-priced exports on world markets," the group said.

"Dumping artificially lowers world prices, destroying local food production and farmers' livelihoods."

India, which has often taken the lead in representing the developing world, echoed the NGOs' position.

It said the plan meant developed countries would not need to cut subsidies and domestic support enough, while developing countries would be forced to reduce their import tariffs.

Cut, cut, cut

But the US complained that it would have cut subsidies too much under the current draft while other countries - like EU members - would only need to make small cuts.

The EU proposed that it should make even smaller cuts than those in the draft.

Japan, which usually supports the EU's position, is also worried that it would have to open up its heavily protected rice market.

Norway, which sits in the EU camp, said the proposals went much further than intended when the latest round of trade talks was launched in Doha in 2001.

WTO negotiators resumed the talks in Geneva on Monday and a final version is due by 31 March for talks which will run until the end of 2004.

EU offers WTO farm subsidy cuts
16 Dec 02  |  Business
Down on the farm
03 Dec 02  |  Business
US denies playing rough over trade
25 Nov 02  |  Business

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