4 December 1998

US officials in for tough fight at WTO talks

AMERICAN officials are ready for a tough fight at the next WTO round talks in their push for freer trade.

Despite the collapse of Freedom to Farm, introduced in 1996 as a step towards reducing government support, they are determined to take further steps towards the eventual dismantling of market-distorting on-farm support measures, trade tariffs and export subsidies.

US farmers hit by low prices recently received $6bn (3.6bn) in aid. The sum also included disaster payments triggered by appalling weather in some areas, said Thomas Hamby, of the US Department of Agriculture, at the show.

"No one said the Farm Bill was perfect. It obviously came under pressure when low prices hit. Some plans established in one environment dont always work so well in another. But it is ongoing, rather like the CAP. It is an attempt to make agriculture more efficient, and to reduce government expenditure."

Freer trade was the key to success for farmers around the world, he added. "WTO is the name of the game – through it, we can develop markets and the level playing field in which farmers can compete fairly, allowing their management skills to dictate success or failure." &#42