‘Huge effort’ needed for WTO success

Sydney, August 21:

European Union agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said today a ‘huge effort’ is needed if the upcoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Hong Kong is to be a success. Speaking after an informal meeting with the agriculture ministers of Australia, Japan,

the US and Canada in Queensland state, the commissioner urged all countries to work to end the current impasse in trade talks. “We all realise what is at stake and now all sides have to contribute to keeping this train on track, making sure there is movement in all three agricultural pillars — export subsidies, domestic support and market access,” she said,

“Together, we have to find a way to reach common ground.” December’s WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong is hoped to conclude the Doha round of talks after four years of often heated negotiations designed to reduce protectionism and promote trade to aid development in poorer countries.

However, the organisation’s failure to hammer out an interim agreement in July prompted speculation that the December meeting was doomed to failure. “The fact is that the WTO negotiations collapsed in Cancun in 2002,” Fischer Boel said, “And to bring back the train on the track, the EU offered to phase out all export subsidies.” The commissioner said that following the EU’s offer of concessions in agriculture, “we want to see participation from others as well. We only have from now until November, about 10 weeks, to make a huge effort. I still hope it’s possible.” Fischer Boel said it was important that agriculture be considered within the wider context of the WTO talks. “Hong Kong cannot just be about agriculture,” she said. She praised the positive atmosphere of the three-day discussions in Queensland, saying it had been valuable for the agriculture ministers to meet before the Hong Kong round.