France digs in heels on farm subsidies (Tom Wright, OCTOBER 20, 2005, International Herald Tribune)
France on Thursday dug in on its refusal to permit new cuts in European farm supports that are needed to advance global trade talks, irking the United States and raising questions about whether a blueprint to lower trade barriers around the world can be completed before a crucial set of talks scheduled for December in Hong Kong.
The showdown put Peter Mandelson, the European Union’s chief trade negotiator, under renewed pressure to find a way to open European farm markets after the United States last week offered to cut agricultural subsidies to restart the round of trade talks, known as the Doha round for the city in Qatar where they began in 2001. [...]
Developing countries led by Brazil are anxious to overhaul this system, which they say encourages overproduction and crushes the livelihood of their farmers as agricultural products subsidized by rich countries depress global food prices.
The United States also sees an opportunity to reduce some $19 billion worth of agricultural subsidies, as corporations and a growing body of U.S. farmers complain that the backlash against these subsidies has caused trading partners to seal off market access to a variety of U.S.-made goods.
Getting Europe to reduce its barriers would open up markets for American farm exports. But European farmers, supported by $60 billion in annual subsidies, are vehemently opposed to any change in the current system.
In countries like France, politicians often view farm reform with suspicion, equating it with attempts to undermine the French way of life.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, said Thursday in an opinion piece published in the French business newspaper Les Echos that further reform was “not acceptable.” He said it would mean a dismantling of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, which dictates farm subsidies across the EU, and would put “an end to Europe’s status as an agricultural power.”
The Australian trade minister, Mark Vaile, lashed out at that stance, saying, “France and other EU members have taken the EU to the brink of collapsing the round.”
Rather than adjusting to the most dysfuntional person in the room, why not leave him in his room by himself while the rest of us get on with life?