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Subsidies put heat on poor nations
( 2003-09-26 01:12) (China Daily)

A senior Philippine official said yesterday he expected "tremendous pressure'' from developed countries to win over poor nations that stood up against them during the collapsed World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Mexico.

The new G-22 bloc of developing countries, including India, Brazil, China and the Philippines, emerged during the talks to push for farm reforms. The bloc wants the dismantling of US$300 billion in subsidies it says rich countries give their farmers yearly, undermining millions of farmers in poorer countries.

"We hope to keep that group intact,'' Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo told reporters.

Lorenzo said that, following the collapse of WTO talks at the Mexican resort Cancun, he believes rich countries "will be more understanding the next time around.''

But he warned that they would try to dilute the new bloc by negotiating one-on-one with developing countries.

"Of course there will be tremendous pressure to begin to attract members of G-22 to pull out of the grouping as they settle their concerns with the developed nations,'' Lorenzo said.

He said the alliance of 22 developing countries "established a synergy that rocked the halls of the WTO in Cancun.''

While the G-22 emerged strong in Cancun, Lorenzo said the Cairns Group, to which the Philippines also belongs, "eventually faded in the intensity of negotiations in Cancun because it was a microcosm of the rich and poor in WTO membership.''

Cairns is a 17-member group within the WTO that is fighting for entry of their agricultural products to European countries and the United States. Members include farm producers like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Lorenzo said that the Cairns members have developed over the last 20 years, but now have very few issues in common.

The Philippines has had trade rows with other Cairns members like Australia, which imposed restrictions on Philippine fruit exports.

"To the extent that there is a common agenda, then we support it, but we must not behave differently among ourselves,'' he said.

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