November 7, 2003 -- CropChoice
news --NY Times, 11/06/03: Though seeking further support
from the Bush administration to help bolster his fragile government,
Joseph Kabila, the president of Congo, criticized the United States
this week for maintaining agricultural subsidies that harm farmers
in his country.
"Most definitely, most definitely," Mr. Kabila, 32, said
in an interview on Thursday when asked if American agriculture subsidies
damage his country's farming sector.
"Most African nations depend on agriculture," he continued,
growing animated. "They have to export in order to earn foreign
currency to buy medicines and buy this and that."
"When there are these subsidies, what's the use of exporting?
They won't be able to export,'' he said. "More or less, the
local markets will be flooded. So what's the use of the farmers
even producing when you can buy something from the U.S. cheaper
at the local market?"
The issue of the $300 billion in annual agricultural subsidies
handed out by governments in the developed world has taken on growing
importance among leaders of developing countries, who complain that
the aid is harming their farmers. The fight over subsidies is blamed
for scuttling world trade talks in Cancún, Mexico, in September.
Mr. Kabila's views on subsidies came in an interview during his
trip to Washington, where he met with President Bush. In that meeting,
Mr. Kabila received a promise of continued American support for
the peace agreement that has brought an end to decades of war in
The Bush administration also said it would provide humanitarian
aid, including food and medicine, and assistance for resettlement
of refugees and stemming the spread of AIDS, though the dollar amount
has not yet been determined, Mr. Kabila said.
Mr. Kabila's meeting - his fourth in two years with Mr. Bush -
underscored the growing stability of Congo since the peace agreement
with rebels was signed earlier this year. Since the agreement was
reached, rebel leaders have been brought into a government of national
unity, elections have been scheduled for 2005 - Mr. Kabila, who
assumed the presidency in 2001 after the assassination of his father,
Laurent Kabila, is coy about whether he will run for president -
and there is cautious talk that the country might one day be stable
enough to draw the foreign investment to develop its resources,
including diamonds and cobalt.