A Show Of Brave Hearts From G-20

New Delhi, April 26 | Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
Apprehensions that the EU might break the G-20 alliance in agriculture comprising India, China, among others, by offering market access sops to Mercosur partners Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, have proved unfounded. The alliance put up a united front in opposing the EU-US proposals in the just concluded committee on agriculture (CoA) meet in Geneva.

Speaking to FE, ministry officials said the World Trade Organisations (WTOs) CoA meet did not manage to break the impasse and differences between the G-20 group and the EU-US combine on the proposed framework for tariff and subsidy reduction remained.

The G-20 countries managed to get the support of most Cairns group (group of agriculture exporting countries including Australia, New Zealand, Paraguay) members in rejecting the EU-US blended-formula approach for tariff reduction.

The formula, a mixture of the linear Uruguay Round formula and the ambitious Swiss formula, may allow US to seek high cuts in the areas of its interest while providing the EU with the flexibility to protect its sensitive sectors like sugar, beef and dairy products.

With the inconclusive CoA meet, the chances of arriving at a framework for farm talks by July have become leaner. Hopes are now being pinned on the mini-ministerial called by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick later this month. Just a handful of members including the EU, Mexico, India, Brazil and South Africa have been invited to the meet.

Although India had shown interest in promoting the Uruguay Round formula which calls for equal percentage reduction in all tariff lines, officials said it is open to any formula protecting its farmers.

Sources said G-20 and Cairns, with some common members, are considering pushing for the banded formula of tariff reduction penned by the former CoA chairman Stuart Harbinson last year.

The formula suggested high tariff bands attracting much higher average and minimum cuts than low tariff bands.

The EC, Canada, Japan, among others, did not support the banded approach in the CoA meet.