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WTO deal on farm products welcomed
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-02 07:57

Top officials from many countries, including China, yesterday welcomed a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal to end export subsidies on farm products and cut import duties across the world.

"Generally speaking, the framework agreement is not bad, though the developing countries are not fully satisfied," said Sun Zhenyu, Chinese ambassador to the WTO.

As a developing country, China has played "a positive and constructive role" in pushing forward the negotiations, Sun said.

The WTO members adopted the framework agreement early yesterday to cut billions of US dollars in farm subsidies, a key step toward the conclusion of a full global treaty which has been discussed since 2001.

The agreement opened way for the revival of the Doha Round trade talks, which were launched in 2001 and have been in trouble since the collapse of talks almost a year ago in Cancun, Mexico.

WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, who had mediated the negotiations since the collapse in Cancun, said that it is really a historic moment for the WTO.

"We have proof again that when our members set their heads and minds together we can overcome all kinds of obstacles," he said.

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said: "This is really a good day for the world economy, for Europe and especially developing countries."

Fischler said the negotiations would result in "a push to the world economy, promote agricultural trade and give better chances to the poor."

EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy said: "The time is past when the WTO was run by the most powerful nations in the world." "They can no longer do whatever they want. Developing countries have managed to create a balance of power," he said.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick called the accord "a crucial step for global trade." "Today's framework is a milestone," Zoellick said. "We have agreed to make reforms in global agriculture trade."

Canadian Trade Minister Jim Peterson said the framework is "incredibly important for Canada and for the world. We have a historic opportunity to get rid of agricultural subsidies and open up the world, particularly the developing world," he noted.

Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath said developed countries have recognized that agricultural trade with a heavy subsidy component is not free trade.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the framework was "a good deal for everybody. It's a good deal for trade liberalization. It is also a good deal for social justice ... with the elimination of subsidies," Amorim said.

Developed and developing countries had been divided on farm subsidies. Developing countries demand an end to them so they can compete in the global market. However, developed nations, including those in the European Union, the United States and Japan, are reluctant to scale back their hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies per year.

Under yesterday's agreement, developed nations agreed to reduce agricultural subsidies in the near term in return for the opening up of markets by developing countries to manufactured goods. They also agreed to fix a date to end all farm subsidies and cut back tariffs on agricultural products.

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