"We have fundamentally reformed our farm policy," and with these words Dr. Franz Fischler, European Commissioner for Agriculture kicked-off his first speech at the WTO ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico that opened on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference on the first day Fischler confirmed Europe's belief that its reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is now 'much less trade distorting, more competitive and more in tune with the environment'.
"This is what many of our partners had asked for. We have delivered," said Fischler.
Referring to Europe's joint framework agreement on agriculture with the United States, hammered out last month and heavily criticised by developing countries as a convenient arrangement between the two powers, Fischler said that this framework 'should not be seen as a stitch-up between the two big elephants'.
" It is not about black and white, about North against South," he told reporters. But he added: "Of course, the rich countries have to do more, have to substantially reduce their trade distorting farm subsidies, have to open their markets and allow developing countries to get a special deal."
Fischler claims Europe is fully committed to this, citing a range of moves to back up his words. "We have offered them more time to implement reduction commitments, a special safeguard clause which allows developing countries to protect sensitive products from excessive imports. We have proposed lower tariff cuts and longer implementation periods. And we are calling for an obligation that at least 50 per cent of imports from developing countries to the developed world should be entirely duty free."
Fischler underlined previous comments made by developed countries that 'the farm policies of rich nations are not the only reason why developing countries have not reaped enough benefits from trade liberalisation.'
"The World Bank says that 80 per cent of the benefits from farm liberalisation would come from reductions in the barriers between poor countries themselves," he said.