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Lamy defends farm sops ahead of Cancun talks

European Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy defended the EU's agricultural subsidies ahead of next week's Cancun meet.

business Updated: Sep 06, 2003 14:51 IST

European Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy on Friday defended the EU's agricultural subsidies ahead of next week's World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial talks in Cancun, Mexico.

In a commentary in Singapore's Straits Times daily, Lamy said the talks will be an "intermediate stage" where negotiators will take stock and determine if a new round of liberalisation will be achievable by the end of 2004.

"It's a big undertaking -- about 20 separate issues and 146 countries to decide how to handle them," he said, singling out agricultural trade as the main "hot ticket item" to be debated in the Mexican beach resort.

"Our objective is simple: To find a balance between market opening and preservation of a viable countryside, and not just in European Union, but around the world," Lamy said.

"We in Europe and many others, including a number of developing countries, have made a political choice to support our agriculture because it is not just another economic activity. It plays a part in conserving the environment, food safety and animal welfare."

The Cancun conference has been called to assess progress toward trade liberalisation under Doha Development Agenda, adopted by the WTO in November 2001 in Doha.

The run-up to the Cancun talks has been plagued by persistent disagreements on several key subjects, notably the future of government subsidies to agriculture. Several developing countries such as Brazil and India are seeking complete elimination of agricultural export subsidies.

In his commentary, Lamy brushed aside charges that the EU was protectionist.

First Published: Sep 06, 2003 13:52 IST