20 EU states oppose WTO farm plan
Jarrett Martineau | February 18, 2008 at 01:00 pmby
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Much of the European Union has rejected the WTO's proposed changes to import tariffs on agricultural products.
Twenty European Union countries on Monday rejected compromise proposals on agriculture put forward by a senior World Trade Organisation diplomat, French Farm Minister Michel Barnier said.
Barnier told reporters it would be better to have no global trade deal this year than to agree on the basis of the compromise proposals.
"What is being prepared is a bad deal," Barnier said after farm ministers of 20 of the 27 EU member states met in Brussels. "We prefer no deal to a bad deal."
Britain, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Malta did not attend the meeting.
The plan, drawn up by the chairman of the agricultural negotiations at the WTO, would require the EU to go further than it originally planned with cuts to the bloc's import tariffs for farm products.
Last week, the executive European Commission said the farm proposals were credible but lacked balance when considered alongside other core areas of the WTO negotiations such as industrial goods or services, where the EU has seen little progress with its ambitions for new market openings.
France has repeatedly signalled its opposition to the kind of concessions in agriculture that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has said he is willing to consider if other WTO members make similar sacrifices.
France is the single biggest beneficiary of the EU's farm subsidies, worth more than 40 billion euros ($58.5 billion) a year in total.