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WTO to dump agricultural subsidies

From Godfrey Marawanyika in Geneva

THE World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s head Supachai Panitchpakdi has set the middle of this year for the eradication of subsidies on agricultural products worldwide.

The move comes at a time when the European Union (EU) trade commissioner Pascal Lamy has clashed with the WTO boss over the issue of subsidies.

Lamy sent a letter of protest to the WTO director over the issue of money allocated to EU farmers as subsidies.

Panitchpakdi said by the middle of this year an agreement should have been reached by all countries.

“By July or earlier we should be having an agreement in the areas of agriculture on the issue of subsidies and manufacturing,” Panitchpakdi said. “Last week I noticed a real engagement since we embarked on the discussion so as to balance the market access issue.”

Lamy has sent a letter of protest to Panitchpakdi over what he termed “misleading” information and figures.

The argument arose from comments made by the WTO boss when he said industrialised nations had so far spent US$300 billion annually on farm subsidies.

In the letter, Lamy said it was “extremely annoying for the director general of the WTO to vary contestable figures” obtained from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Developing nations are demanding that there be reductions in the US$1 billion allocated daily by rich countries as farm subsidies.

The developing nations say the subsidies create an unfair advantage in the global trade structure.

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