Should the EU take the lead in WTO farm negotiations?

The EU is expected to take the lead in WTO negotiations on agriculture as the focus has shifted from the US to Europe on farm policy reform.

The EU is fully committed to the WTO process for reducing
trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and a progressive reform of
agricultural policies. However, it also expects its WTO partners to
take into account the European model of agriculture, which puts
great emphasis on non-trade concerns, such as environmental
protection, food security and rural development.

The new US Farm Bill, adopted in May 2002, is
seen as trade distorting by the trade partners who expressed
concerns that it will endanger WTO talks on agriculture. Trade
partners have warned the US that the developing countries depending
on farm exports will be hit particularly hard by the new law
(see

EURACTIV 14 May
2002
).

The US Farm Bill will boost agriculture spending
by 70 percent over the next 10 years and increase subsidies to US
farmers. US farmers will receive 173.5 billion dollars in subsidies
over the next ten years.

 

The US Farm Bill has pushed the EU "almost into the lead on
reform", says Professor Tim Josling from Stanford University.
Speaking to a
CEPSconference on "The US WTO Proposals
and the New Farm Bill" on 17 September, Professor Josling
recognised that there has been more consistency on farm reform in
the EU than in the US. He argues that, as a consequence of the US
Farm Bill, the focus has shifted from the US to the EU on farm
policy reform.

Professor Josling underlined that the Farm Bill
should not be interpreted as a change in policy. Rather, the US has
two policies: farm and trade, and there are tensions between the
two. "There is a window of opportunity to exploit this internal
split," said Professor Josling. He argues that moving ahead with
the reform of the international trade system is in the long-term
interest of Europe.

Professor Josling called on the EU to take
initiative and respond to the US proposal for WTO talks on farm
trade liberalisation. "The EU should come up with a variant of the
US proposal," he underlined. He believes there should be some
progress before March 2003.

 

World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on agriculture
began in early 2000, under Article 20 of the WTO Agriculture
Agreement. By November 2001 and the Doha Ministerial Conference,
121 governments had submitted a large number of negotiating
proposals.

 


The WTO Doha declaration sets 1 January 2005 as the date for
completing trade liberalisation negotiations.

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