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Brazil fights US and EU farm subsidies (Read 1360 times)
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Brazil fights US and EU farm subsidies
Sep 28th, 2002 at 11:38pm
 
by Charlotte Denny, September 28, 2002, Guardian UK

Brazil launched a broadside against Europe's and America's lavish payments to their farmers yesterday, filing a double complaint at the World Trade Organisation over cotton subsidies in the US and sugar subsidies in the EU.

The challenge by one of the leading members of the Cairns groups of agricultural free traders strikes at the heart of the complicated system of quotas and payments that protect western farmers.

Brazil blames America's $3.9bn (2.5bn) cotton subsidies for ruining its own far more efficient industry. The US is the world's most expensive producer of cotton, with costs per lb twice the world average. Brazil says the EU's sugar regime is also damaging to its farmers.

Aid agencies yesterday accused the US of dumping its surplus cotton on world markets and contributing to a catastrophic price fall. World prices have fallen by half since the mid-1990s and, adjusted for inflation, they are at their lowest level since the great depression.

In a report released to coincide with the filing of the Brazilian case, Oxfam said the subsidy regime, which costs three times more than America's aid budget for all of Africa's 500m people, was contributing to mass poverty in cotton producing nations such as Mali and Chad.

"The US is the world's strongest proponent of free trade, but when poor cotton farmers in Mali try to trade on the world market, they must compete against massively subsidised American cotton," said Kevin Watkins, the report's author. "This makes a mockery of the idea of a level playing field. The rules are rigged against the poor."

The WTO is likely to take at last a year to decide if the cotton and sugar regimes break its rules.

Reproduced from:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,800624,00.html
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