EU food industry 'disappointed' in WTO talks failure

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

The EU food industry has expressed disappointment at the WTO's
failure to achieve any meaningful agreement at the Doha round of
agricultural trade talks.

WTO director general Pascal Lamy demand their suspension this week, after members failed to achieve any meaningful consensus.

This effectively means that the much-heralded talks, which were supposed to introduce important changes in global trade tariffs, have been a failure.

"This is a serious disappointment for the EU food and drink industry business that continuously supported the Doha Development Agenda since the beginning of the round, five years ago,"​ said the CIAA (confederation of the food and drink industries) in a statement.

"European food and drink business expected the multilateral process to deliver a level playing field through improved disciplines in agricultural policies and to offer enhanced trade opportunities."

These sentiments were echoed by the European Dairy Association (EDA), which argued that a balanced agreement in the WTO Doha round negotiations was an essential step towards the liberalised world market, and the only guarantee for growth of profitable trade in general and for the dairy sector in particular.

"EDA is disappointed about the suspension of the negotiations and asks the EU Commission for restraint with respect to any further reform of related policies in the EU,"​ it said.

This is a critical point for the dairy industry. The EU has promised to strongly reduce market support in agriculture within the bloc, which is reflected in the proposals currently on the table: phasing-out of export refunds and a 75 per cent reduction in domestic support.

For the EU dairy industry, this package, together with a balanced agreement on market access, was the basis for the Doha Round agreement. The interference between the policy developments at EU and at WTO level has been the condition for the EU dairy industry support for the CAP-Reform of 2003.

"However, since today there is no guidance from a new WTO agreement, the EU Dairy Industry asks the EU Commission to be reserved with respect to any further reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the EU Dairy Common Market Organisation,"​ said the association.

The European food industry has been consistently supportive of the Doha round of trade talks. It believed that a successful conclusion would have helped secure continued industry investment across Europe, pushed trading partners into reforming their agricultural systems, and provided for a level playing field for trade in food and drink products and greater trade opportunities.

But the overall feeling now is one of frustration at an opportunity lost. "We must be under no illusion that this break down can be painted in rosy colours,"​ said EU agriculture minister Mariann Fischer Boel this week.

The decision to suspend negotiations was taken after talks among six major members broke down on Sunday. Ministers from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States had met in Geneva to try to follow up on instructions from the St Petersburg Summit on 17 July.

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