Regressive move

Published: Saturday 15 June 2002

Bushwhacking agro reforms There is disappointment down under over the us farm bill which has recently become a law. The us bill will provide new subsidies for domestic farmers over the next decade. It raises subsidy rates for soyabean, wheat, corn, cotton and barley. Australian trade minister Mark Vaile says that a dithering of us commitment to reform international agricultural trade could hamper global talks. He fears its negative impact on the us' negotiating position at the World Trade Organisation (wto) talks. Vaile is dismayed at attempts by the us congress to give farm lobbies a greater say in trade negotiations.

Australia leads the 18-member Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries. It says that developing countries need subsidy reductions to improve market access. Many poorer nations signed up to a new trade round in Doha in 2001 on the assurance that rich countries would lower trade barriers to stamp out protectionism.

The agriculture minister of India, Ajit Singh, has meanwhile called for enhancing subsidies for Indian farmers as a retaliatory measure. He says that the new bill would further distort the level-playing field for developing countries. African leaders have also accused the us of using subsidies to keep prices artificially low to beat off competition. The eu has threatened a wto challenge just as Brazil too intends to file such a complaint.

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