3 March 2000

Balance trade and welfare

BRINGING down barriers to international trade – the key objective of any new round of World Trade Organisation talks – must not jeopardise high animal welfare standards in the UK.

Giving evidence to the agricultural select committee in West-minster this week, NFU president, Ben Gill, said it was vital British farmers should not be disadvantaged on price, just because they had to meet higher production costs.

"Further trade reforms could offer opportunities, but equally could present British farmers with major problems," he said. "Striking a proper balance between regulation and free trade will be crucial."

lIn its biggest case yet, the WTO last week ruled against the US for allowing exporters to channel business though offshore companies and so avoid taxes and export subsidy restrictions. An estimated $4.4bn (£2.75bn) of crops a year are said to benefit from the system. The US has been given until October to put an end to the practice, after which the EU will be able to impose substantial sanctions. &#42