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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
US 'protectionism' condemned
Kansas corn field
Hefty subsidies have been given to US farmers
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By Patrick Bartlett
BBC Europe business correspondent, in Paris

The United States has been strongly criticised for reverting to protectionism to help American steel producers and farmers, at a meeting in Paris of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Mexican President Vicente Fox
President Fox: Concerned about "serious disruption" to world agricultural markets

The exchanges, described as very frank, took place during the annual ministerial meeting of the OECD, which represents 30 of the world's most developed countries.

The US will face more pressure on Thursday, when trade will top the agenda of this two-day meeting.

The US has been left in no doubt over the anger and disappointment felt by many of its partners following US President George W Bush's decision to impose duties on steel imports and, just this week, to allow hefty subsidies for US farmers.

Unfair measures

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who chaired the meeting, said it would be hard to sum up all the words used to condemn US actions.

He said American mid-term elections were no excuse for unfair measures which risked widening the gap between rich and poor countries.

By blocking access to developed markets, he warned that wealthy nations will continue to sow the seeds of hate against themselves.

That theme was picked up by Mexican President Vicente Fox, the OECD's only Latin American member.

'Tit for tat' fear

Speaking in the European Parliament, he warned that US farm subsidies risked serious disruption to world agricultural markets.

Many of America's trading partners clearly believe its actions go against the spirit of commitments made at the World Trade Talks in Doha last year.

And with the European Union seeking to impose retaliatory sanctions for US steel tariffs, the fear is that those negotiations could become poisoned by a series of tit-for-tat responses.

See also:

14 May 02 | Business
IMF chief slams US steel tariffs
13 May 02 | Business
Outrage as US farm handout agreed
10 May 02 | Business
Anger greets US farm aid
03 May 02 | Business
US farm aid threatens new trade row
02 May 02 | Business
EU-US trade tensions rise
29 Apr 02 | Business
US farm bill raises trade tensions
14 Jan 02 | Business
Q&A: US-EU trade war
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