July 21, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- The Guardian: The European
Union will today raise the stakes in vital global trade
talks when it adopts a hardline negotiating stance for
September's World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun,
Pascal Lamy, Europe's top trade negotiator, will insist
on new talks about opening up developing countries to
foreign investors as the price of making any cuts to
Europe's $40bn (£25bn) farm subsidies, according
to a secret report leaked to the Guardian.
Members of Parliament (MP) on the international development
committee warned last week that Europe could turn Cancun
into a repeat of the WTO's disastrous Seattle meeting
if it insisted on putting foreign investment on the
agenda against the wishes of most developing countries.
The draft document that spells out Europe's strategy
for Cancun was approved last week by top EU trade officials
and will be rubber-stamped today by ministers. Although
EU farm ministers agreed in principle last month to
reform the common agricultural policy, the document
says no changes will be made unless other countries
make concessions to Europe's demands for less radical
cuts to agricultural tariffs.
"It's total brinkmanship. The EU is saying, 'it's
our way or the highway'," said Rachel Thompson,
a trade analyst with consultancy Apco.
Europe's tactics are likely to infuriate other WTO
members who had hoped last month's reforms were a sign
that Europe was committed to real cuts. Brussels pays
the biggest farm subsidies in the world, encouraging
Europe's inefficient farmers to produce mountains of
unwanted food that is dumped in the developing world,
hitting local farmers.
With less than two months to go before the Cancun meeting,
WTO negotiators face an enormous task in bridging differences
on thorny issues such as agriculture, access to cheap
medicines and investment. The talks that began nearly
two years ago in Doha are supposed to be wrapped up
by the end of 2004.
"If the EU position doesn't change, I would say
there is a fifty-fifty chance that Cancun will be total
failure," said Ms Thompson.