Monday, June 23, 2003

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How France helps the world's poor

I blogged earlier this month about French efforts to derail the "development round" of WTO talks. The Economist has the latest on this story:

Unfortunately, it is not just European consumers whose pockets are hit by the EU's spending of over euro40 billion a year to subsidise agriculture. Farmers in the poor world are doubly hurt. They must compete against subsidised European stuff. And even then their access to European markets is severely impeded. Tackling the western world's farm protectionism (meaning, above all, the EU's) has become a critical issue for the World Trade Organisation's latest attempt to foster liberalisation, known as the Doha round. A top American says bluntly that if the EU cannot agree to a package of agricultural reforms before a crucial WTO meeting in September, Doha will be “in deep, deep trouble”....

This week the EU's farm ministers were locked in traditional all-night negotiations, picking apart the proposals of Franz Fischler, the Union's commissioner for agriculture. France, whose receipts of some euro9 billion a year in farm subsidies make it the largest single recipient of CAP funds, has once again been leading the opposition....

The beauty of France and the glories of its food and wine are indeed splendid, and help make the country the world's most popular tourist destination. But the idea that the CAP is all about helping rustic smallholders to keep making rare cheeses has very little to do with reality. In fact, 80% of the EU's farm subsidies go to the 20% of the Union's farmers with the biggest farms. Because EU subsidies are linked to production, they encourage ugly, intensive, industrial farming. The people the CAP helps most are big businessmen with vast fields of sugar beet in northern France or miles of bright-yellow oil-seed rape in southern England....

The fact that France opposes these reforms gives the lie to its government's argument that its support for the CAP is all about a principled desire to defend the unique lifestyle of la France profonde. The fact is that France is extremely proficient at intensive farming and it is intensive farmers who stand to lose most from Mr Fischler's reforms. This concern, added to the French government's fear of enraging its notoriously irascible farmers, is the real motivation behind France's refusal to contemplate real reform of the CAP.

[Isn't it hypocritical to blast France when the U.S. has its agricultural subsidies?--ed. Look at this chart and you'll see that U.S. subsidies are considerably smaller than the those in the EU, Japan, South Korea, or Scandinavia]

More on this from the Financial Times and the EU Observer -- which observes that The French stance "is isolated among European partners."

posted by Dan on 06.23.03 at 05:04 PM



posted by: john chucks on 06.23.03 at 05:04 PM [permalink]

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