Mariann Fischer Boel, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, in an email interview with Lola Nayar states that the developed nations have to do “much more in this Round” of WTO negotiations than developing or LDC nations
After a gap of eight months and in the aftermath of the global slowdown, did the talks in New Delhi reflect any shift in understanding of the problems faced by the developing and LDC nations due to the protectionist tendencies of trading partners, particularly the developed nations?
The talks in New Delhi were extremely important in re-energising the Doha Round. From the European Union side, there was no need for any shift as we are well aware of the problems faced by developing countries. This is a development Round and we are fully committed to ensuring the maximum benefits for developing countries. The offer we have put on the table is evidence of this and shows clearly that we are not interested in protectionism. We have offered to cut trade-distorting domestic subsidies by 80 percent, cut border protection by an average on 60 percent and phase out export subsidies entirely, as part of a balanced overall agreement. We freely accept that developed countries have to do much more in this Round than developing countries and that LDCs get a 'Round for free'. We fully support India in its efforts to secure a Special Safeguard Mechanism for agriculture.
Has the global slowdown added to the sense of urgency to push ahead with the negotiations?
Yes it has. That was reflected in the decision to hold the talks in New Delhi and in the result of those talks. A successful conclusion to the DDA will bring real, tangible economic benefits. And it will also send an important message that protectionism is not the way out of the economic crisis.
Is this sense of urgency expected to see countries, including developed nations, adopt more accomodative positions on negotiations on specific areas of concern in favour of putting in place a broader global trade structure?
I hope that everybody around the table will be accommodating and will make the extra effort needed to reach final agreement on the Single Undertaking by the end of 2010. That is the clear target of recent summit meetings and was the clear goal of the ministers meeting in Delhi.
The EU has led from the front in these negotiations. We have put an extremely generous offer on the table. I hope others will be similarly positive so that we can wrap things up rapidly.
Given the volatility in commodities trade, particularly agriculture, is there any way forward that would ensure proper remuneration for people dependent on farm income while promoting better agriculture growth to bridge global shortfall in production of cereals, pulses or other farm produce?
An agreement in the Doha Round would represent a very important step in this process. For a start, it would reduce tariffs overall while maintaining border protection for products which are of particular importance to certain countries. It would render domestic support payments more trade-friendly, in line with reforms we in Europe have already carried out. And it would eliminate trade-distorting export subsidy programmes.
But there are also other things we can do. The EU has recently begun making payments from its so-called Food Facility, which is designed to help farmers in developing countries to improve their production. Aid policies have for too long focused on providing food rather than providing developing country farmers with the means to produce their own food. Our commitment to development aid will remain just as determined as it is now. And there is also much we can do through co-operation in the field of research. I believe that biotechnology can provide answers to improving yields in regions where agronomic conditions are difficult.
What role is climate change concern expected to play in future negotiations?
Climate change is probably the biggest issue facing global agriculture in the coming years. Not only will it affect agricultural productivity massively in many regions, but farming has an enormous role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In the EU, we have already reduced our emissions from agriculture by 20 percent between 1990 and 2007 and we will continue our efforts. Recent policy changes have shifted more money into Rural Development policy to help finance measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. The European Commission is preparing plans on how to help developing nations finance actions to deal with climate change. So this issue is at the top of the international agenda, even if it does not feature specifically in the DDA negotiations.
Is there any shift perceived in India's towards negotiations?
India has always been a key player in the talks and always features prominently in all meetings, however big the group. The fact that minister Sharma took the initiative to host the New Delhi talks is a positive sign that India wants to push things forward.
This interview does not appear in print