Blair and Mandelson accused of selling out to the WTO

Irish farmers have launched a stinging attack on UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, accusing them of “selling out” to the World Trade Organisation.

About 5000 farmers descended on the EU Commission’s offices in Dublin on Tuesday (8 November) in protest at the latest EU offer to open
up markets and slash farm supports.

In particular, the offer to cut import tariffs by an average 46% would make the EU “the dumping ground of the world food market”, Irish Farmers’ Association president John Dillon told the gathering.

“If Mandelson gets his way, Irish farm income will be cut by 800m (544m), or 35%,” he claimed.

“It would bring the average family farm income to about 10,000 a year.

That’s about 4.80/hr, far below the minimum wage of 7.65.”

Beef prices would drop to 2.07/kg (1.40), milk prices to 20 cents/litre (14p), sugar beet to 25/t (17) and cereals to 80/t (54), he predicted.

“This is a blatant sell-out of Irish family farming.

Mandelson is hell-bent on imposing Britain’s cheap food policy on Europe.”

The IFA demonstration followed a similar event on Monday organised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association outside the British Embassy in Dublin.

The ICSA accused the UK presidency of the EU of having stifled debate about the WTO by keeping it off the agriculture council agenda.

“What is the point of having a council of ministers that ignores the main issues?”

asked ICSA president Malcolm Thompson.

“The only explanation is to be found in the British antipathy to the CAP and farming in general, as expressed openly by Tony Blair in recent months.”

Both the IFA and ICSA accused Mr Mandelson of exceeding his mandate and tabling proposals that would inevitably lead to more CAP reform.

The demonstrations came in a week in which the ongoing WTO Round ran into severe difficulties after top level meetings in London and Geneva.

All sides admitted that a detailed interim deal in Hong Kong next month is now unlikely.