Brown to consult ahead of world trade talks

By Farmers Weekly staff

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown is to seek industry views on the approach to be taken in the world trade talks, which get under way in Seattle in November.

The consultation document warns there will be real pressure on the EU to change its “blue box” payments, such as area aid and livestock premia, either by reducing them over time, or by de-coupling them from production.

Further reductions in import tariffs are also foreseen, and any less protection for pigmeat, sheepmeat and poultry will lead to real price pressure from imports in these markets.

As for export subsidies, the consultation document says the limits imposed by the last GATT round are already starting to bite, leading to an accumulation of stocks of several commodities. Pressure to eliminate them will increase.

The NFU has yet to finalise its response to the consultation. Its priorities will be to achieve some kind of trade protection for countries operating higher animal welfare standards, and to maintain maximum flexibility in the way subsidy cuts are allocated between sectors.

Protecting the blue box payments is also high on its list. “We always doubted the sense of this approach, but since Agenda 2000 has enshrined the concept, we are forced to defend it,” says director of policy, Martin Haworth.

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