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Sarkozy signals support for farmers in trade talks

By Jess Halliday , 24-May-2007

Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on other sides to make concessions in the WTO trade negotiations as well as Europe, and said he would not allow French farmers to be 'sold at the lowest possible price'.

Sarkozy's comments came during his first presidential visit to Brussels yesterday, where he met with EC chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

 

 

 

"If other sides want to open up to get an agreement, I say fine because an agreement is better than a disagreement," he said at a news conference. "Europe has to open up, but so do the others… at the same time and in the same conditions."

 

 

 

He said he would not allow support for European farmers to be cut, while their US counterparts were unaffected by parallel measures.

 

 

 

"I am not going to sell agriculture to get a better opening for service."

 

 

Unlike its neighbours Germany and the UK, which support free trade, France was one of the sticklers against making major concessions over trade under previous president Chirac - especially when it came to opening up Europe's agriculture markets to foreign competition.

 

 

 

The Doha Development Agenda, launched in November 2001 in the Qatari capital, Doha, aims to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, with a special focus on achieving concrete benefits for developing countries.

 

 

 

However a conclusion to the talks has proved elusive: the talks were suspended last July, since World Trade Organisation (WTO) members refused to budge on issues such as the lowering of tariffs on certain goods.

 

 

 

While developing nations would be set to benefit most from agreement over Doha, developed nations have been most strongly criticised for holding up the process.

 

 

 

The intransigence of the US was seen as one of the main blockades to a successful outcome last year, leading to criticisms of greedy developed nations standing in the way of a more equitable global trading environment that would give developing nations fairer access to lucrative markets.

 

 

 

EU agriculture minister Mariann Fischer-Boel repeatedly stepped up to the plate to express eagerness to restart talks.

 

 

 

At the end of last month, a new deadline for the talks to be concluded was set for the end of the year.

 

 

 

Speaking at a debate hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva in April, WTO director general Pascal Lamy said negotiations towards conclusion are seventy per cent complete.

 

 

 

We are near a possible conclusion of a big multilateral negotiation, the main purpose of which is to try and rebalance the rules of the multilateral trading system, which honestly developing countries consider as being tilted against them. I think they are right," he said.

 

 

 

"We have got good political energy, the leaders know now what the huge cost of a failure would be."

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