Fresh calls to close Doha talks

EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will try to inject fresh life into the ailing Doha Development Round of world trade talks at this weekend’s G8 meeting of world leaders in St Petersburg, Russia.

Briefing journalists in Brussels on Tuesday (11 July), Mr Barroso said he would raise the issue with other world leaders and hoped for a “very strong signal about the importance and urgency of a successful conclusion to the Doha Round”.

The WTO aims to reach an outline agreement for cutting farm supports, import barriers and export subsidies, by the end of July.
But it ran into deep trouble in Geneva at the end of June, with the USA refusing to give more ground on its domestic supports and others complaining that the EU was still being too coy on market access.

Even though the main focus of this weekend’s G8 meeting is supposed to be on energy and Africa, it is inevitable agricultural trade will be a major talking point, especially as leaders from Brazil, India and China have also been invited.

But ahead of the meeting, Third World lobby group Oxfam warned that the G8 leaders could be fighting a losing battle towards salvaging the Doha Development Round, because of the way the US and Europe skewed their farm subsidies so heavily in favour of their biggest producers.

New statistics showed that, in 2004, the largest 7% of Europe’s farmers received over half the €28bn (£19bn) paid out in direct subsidies.

The biggest 2460 farmers received, on average, €524,000 (£362,000) each. And in the USA, the top 10% of farmers got more than 72% of the $23bn (12bn) paid out in domestic supports.