Trade talks in trouble as French limit Europe's scope

Published: 22 November 2005

Renewed deadlock in world trade talks due to lack of movement by the European Union could scupper the chances of a deal being done by the end of the year and signal continued suffering for millions of poor farmers, said international agency Oxfam today.

Renewed deadlock in world trade talks due to lack of movement by the European Union could scupper the chances of a deal being done by the end of the year and signal continued suffering for millions of poor farmers, said international agency Oxfam today.


Under pressure from certain member states, especially France, the EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson failed to offer further concessions on agricultural reform at talks in Geneva this week, which ended without progress today.

Oxfam warned that such obstinacy from the EU and the resultant standoff between major trading powers would ultimately harm developing countries.

"Every extra delay reduces the chances of a deal being done that will lift people out of poverty. Promises have been made repeatedly by rich countries to remove barriers to farm trade. But this rearguard action by the French and other EU member states is undermining even the minimal progress made," said Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair Campaign.

Oxfam said that although the EU was responsible for the impasse this week, both the major trading powers needed to offer deeper cuts to their farm subsidies. They must also acknowledge the need for poor countries to retain flexibility to protect fledgling farm sectors and ensure food security.

"Neither the EU or the US have gone far enough in offering to cut farm payments that distort trade. On market access they are at opposite extremes and need to move closer to the middle ground. The US is lauding it over Europe this week but the reality is that neither bloc has yet made a proposal that truly serves the interests of the poor," said Charveriat.

Oxfam also warned that the EU plight could give the US the excuse to dilute concessions already made: "It would be tragic if the EU gave the US an excuse to backtrack. The offers already made are far from good enough. They must not be weakened further," said Charveriat.

The Group of 20 developing countries joined the US in pushing the EU to offer more on market access but Oxfam warned that developing countries must hold out for a deal that guaranteed them flexibility and did not demand too great a level of reciprocity.

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