EC urges US to implement 'sustainable' Farm Bill

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fischer boel European union World trade organization

EC commissioner for agriculture told an audience in the US that any
Farm Bill must not be detrimental to the Doha Round of trade talks.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC last week, Mariann Fischer Boel said that it was now more important that ever to push for success in the Doha round of WTO talks. "The 2002 Farm Bill rightly faced worldwide criticism when it was passed, as a move away from market-oriented farm policy,"​ she said. "The 2007 Farm Bill should correct mistakes made in 2002, not reinforce them. The world is looking to the US for a clear signal here." Europe remains concerned that US proposals for a new Farm Bill offers only 'modest' cuts in domestic support - a move that would not make a resumption in global trade talks any easier. The Doha​ round of trade talks, aimed to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, were suspended in July 2006 after strong disagreements emerged between developed and developing countries, and between the European Union and the United States, on how far agricultural subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods should be cut. Since then, numerous attempts at resuscitating talks have tended to collapse. The EU, driven on by a powerful food industry lobby, is keen to restart talks. Fischer Boel said that the European agricultural sector was very aware that it operates in a 'globalised world'. "We in the European Union are very clear about that. We could hardly fail to recognise it, given that we import agricultural goods worth almost 80 billion dollars a year – more than anyone else in the world. "And we know that, to be realistic, we have to expect agricultural markets to move still further with the tide of globalisation." Fischer Boel said that this was one of the shaping forces of agricultural change within the bloc. "Following a series of reforms, the old image of the CAP as a motor of over-production is long out of date,"​ she said. "The most recent cycle of reforms began in 2003. This was when we introduced the Single Farm Payment, which we are phasing in to replace about 90 per cent of direct support payments to European farmers. "The Single Farm Payment is not linked to current production of any kind. Instead, it is based on past subsidy receipts and current land area. To receive it, farmers must respect strict standards of environmental care, animal welfare and public health."​ Fischer Boel said that while farm policy was a domestic issue, there was no reason why Europe and America couldn't learn from one another. "From my conversations on Capitol Hill yesterday, I understand that there is an increased recognition of the various functions agriculture plays in our modern societies, and consequently the language used in the US is evolving. "I can only urge the US Congress not to write a Farm Bill that would be detrimental to the Doha round."

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