14 September 1999
WTO talks wont be easy — Fischler

By FWi staff

THE forthcoming round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks wont be easy, European Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has conceded.

The talks, due to begin in the north-west US city of Seattle in November, are designed to liberate world trade in agricultural products.

European Union (EU) negotiators will come under pressure to reduce the level of subsidies for their farmers and open up the European market to imports.

In return, the EU will demand improved market access for its exporters and will call for all export credits to be subject to compliance with agreed trade rules.

It will also stress the need to strengthen the multifunctional role of agriculture as a means of ensuring the vitality of rural areas, and animal and environmental protection.

EU negotiators will also seek to ensure that greater attention is paid to consumers worries food, including GM crops and hormone-treated beef.

They are eager that the WTO is not used as a pretext for placing products on the market where there are legitimate concerns about their safety.

But Mr Fischler has warned that the negotiations could be harder than expected.

“Our negotiating position will not be easy,” he said.

“Community market prices for most products are still above world prices, so that our market is an attractive target for other exporters.

“We also provide export refunds, so all other exporters will do their utmost to ensure that they are reduced or abolished.”

Mr Fischler said that the EU could also be targeted because it was making more and more use of “blue box” subsidies — the support measures which least distort trade.

But European countries did have an advantage, he added, in as much as they had agreed a negotiating position to strengthen their standpoint against other nations.

“We are therefore ready to engage in serious negotiations immediately so that the ambitious timetable, on which there is broad agreement, can be met,” said Mr Fischer.

“However, successful negotiations also require give and take, so that ultimately we are all in a position to benefit from the outcome.”