22 November 1999
Farming key to WTO agenda row

AGRICULTURE is at the centre of a dispute over the agenda for the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle.

Trade diplomats said yesterday the USA, the European Union and the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations were trying to thrash out a draft text on agriculture that would lay out a limited number of options.

The EU is opposing US and Cairns Group insistence on a reference to the elimination of export subsidies.

The EU wants references to food safety, quality and animal welfare which the USA and the Cairns Group find unacceptable.

Japan was also said to be unhappy about the text. The EU and Japan are pressing for a broad-based round that would go much further than the programme which has already been agreed on agriculture and services.

The USA favours a narrow round based on negotiating improved market access for goods and services.

Another row threatening to bedevil the WTO meeting in Seattle concerns the patenting of the genetic make-up of plants and animals.

The USA and Europe insist corporations be allowed to patent all plants and animals, despite existing international laws and understandings which provide for protection of natural resources.

India, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and other African and Latin American countries have accused the USA and Europe of “bio-piracy”.