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EU accuses US of 'twisting truth' over Doha proposals

By Anthony Fletcher , 06-Feb-2006

The EU has attacked the US for 'seriously twisting the truth about the value of the European Unions agricultural market access offer in the Doha Round'.

It argues that a recent United States Trade Representative (USTR) fact sheet entitled "Implications of EU Agriculture Market Access Position" is "entirely misleading", and challenges the USs commitment to the reduction of global agricultural tariffs.

Last minute negotiations at the World Trade Organization's Hong Kong Ministerial in December which discussed the breaking down of global trade barriers to agricultural products - resulted in an interim agreement that means negotiators have to return to the bargaining table this year.

The result was viewed as modest because it avoided earlier outright failures, though it did not secure any major breakthrough. But both the EU and the US now seem locked in a war of words, blaming each others lack of commitment for the slow progress being made.

"The cuts proposed by the EU offer are deeper than the average cuts agreed in the Uruguay Round," said the European Commission in a statement. "The EUs highest tariffs would be cut by 60 per cent.

"Although the USTR implies otherwise, the EU is offering steep cuts in tariffs for sensitive products as well, plus increased import quotas."

The EU believes that the USTRs primary problem with the EU offer is that it does not provide sufficient access for US exporters to the agricultural markets of developing countries.

"Because the EUs offer is based on the principle that developing countries should cut much less than developed ones, to deepen cuts in developing countries, the US must push the EU offer up. The tariff cuts for developing countries proposed by the EU are exactly the same as those proposed by the G20 developing countries themselves."

The EU argues that it has the most open market in the world for the agricultural exports. "Thanks to its preferential access schemes, the EU takes 85 per cent of the agricultural exports of Africa and 45 per cent from Latin America.

"Under these schemes, almost all developing countries pay heavily reduced tariff rates on agricultural exports and the 50 poorest countries in the world the Least Developed Countries pay no tariffs at all and are not subject to any quotas."

Finally, the EU slams USTR claims that the EU offer provides no "significant improvements" in market access for farm goods. It says that this is simply not true.

"EU data suggests that the EU offer would provide market access for 800,000 new tonnes of beef imports every year even if beef is designated as a sensitive product. That is the equivalent of the entire current annual beef exports from Argentina (680 000 tonnes) one of the worlds biggest beef exporters."

The EU says that those who argue that the measures do not go far enough are large farm exporters who simply want more or those who want to use the EU offer as a benchmark to drive up proportionally lower levels of tariff reduction in developing countries.

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