Geneva: The chief mediator in World Trade Organisation (WTO) farm talks faced attack from all sides on 7 May for his proposals to galvanise the troubled negotiations, with rich and poor nations calling them unbalanced.
But New Zealand’s ambassador Crawford Falconer, chairman of the WTO’s agriculture committee, was unfazed and said his 28-page paper outlining the steps needed for any agreement had succeeded in stimulating the negotiations.
“The paper kicked about as many shins as possible...It has got the adrenalin going,” he told journalists.
In his suggestions presented last week for breaking a long-running deadlock in farm talks, a key part of the WTO’s Doha round with its goal of reducing trade barriers across the board, Falconer said all parties would have to give ground.
The US would have to cut deeper into farm subsidy programmes, the Europeans would have to drop farm trade barriers and developing countries would have to accept more imports.
But the G33 alliance of developing countries with a high number of subsistence farmers said Falconer’s ideas were too favourable to the WTO’s richer nations.
“The G33 is concerned at the imbalance ... as it (the paper) takes on board the concerns of only the developed countries,” the group said in a statement to the agriculture committee.
The US was equally critical: the Falconer draft paid too much attention to farm subsidies -- which it said has little impact on trade -- and too little to slashing tariff barriers.
Major WTO states have set themselves an end-year deadline for wrapping up the nearly six-year-old Doha round, but such a timetable requires an accord on a blueprint before the Geneva-based trade body takes a summer break at the end of July.
Falconer’s draft said Washington would have to agree to a subsidy ceiling below $19 billion a year, compared with its offer of some $22.5 billion, while the EU would need to agree to an average tariff cut of above 50%.
Poorer developing countries would have to accept some market opening in all products, he added.
The next meeting of the agriculture committee was set for the week of 21 May after trade ministers from Brazil, the European Union, India and the US get together in Brussels in a further attempt to narrow their differences.
Members of the Brazil-led G20 group of developing countries with an interest in boosting farm exports have warned that without “balance” in the agriculture negotiations there is little chance of success in other areas of the round, which include manufactured goods and services.