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Oxfam: Europe's Farm Subsidies 'Unfair'

"These new figures help show why most of Europe wants to maintain the status quo - even if that means crippling the WTO development round. The danger in this is that others like the US and Japan will get away with doing very little and placing the blame on the EU," Oxfam commented. "The losers of a continued stalemate will be Europe's small farmers, who need more targeted support, and millions of poor farmers in developing countries, who need an end to rich country dumping."

Brussels (UPI) Nov 07, 2005
The pressure on France to reform Europe's $50 billion annual subsidy scheme to help the world trade talks was reinforced Monday by new studies showing the European Union system is hardly helping small farmers at all.

The new figures show the top 15 percent of French farming companies consume 60 percent of the direct payments from the EU's coffers, while small French farmers get only 17 percent of the subsidies doled out by Paris, says the British aid agency Oxfam.

"This gives the lie to the French argument that it uses EU subsidies to support its small farmers. They plainly don't," said Oxfam's trade campaigner Celine Charveriat, citing findings based on the European Commission's own statistics.

Across Europe, but above all in France, the big subsidies go to the biggest agro-industrial groups who least need the money, report new studies by France's La Tribune newspaper and by Oxfam, which campaigns against EU subsidies so that poor farmers from the developing world have a chance to export into Europe's markets.

The new reports about the unequal payouts of EU farm subsidies came as the foreign ministers of the 25-nation EU met in Brussels to discuss their budget, and as international trade negotiators gathered in London in a bid to unfreeze the world trade talks ahead of next month's Hong Kong summit. The United States has put an ambitious offer to slash U.S. farm subsidies on the table, but France has fought hard against any equivalent EU response, putting at risk the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations.

"Europe must face up to the need to reform its Common Agricultural Policy following new revelations of inequality," Oxfam said. "The CAP is a gravy train for Europe's biggest, richest farmers. We don't want the CAP dismantled -- we want it changed so that it supports small farming and environmentally friendly production, not the big export-oriented agri-businesses that dump cheap produce into poor countries."

France, which gets the lion's share -- $12 billion from the EU's $52 billion CAP budget -- is leading the fight to protect the CAP in the Doha Round talks. French President Jacques Chirac has threatened a veto if Brussels offers further subsidy cuts to WTO partners.

The new studies on the French farm subsidy payments echo earlier studies by Oxfam of the way the CAP works in other EU countries. The big agro-industry groups usually make the most money, with Britain's royal family being one of the biggest recipients in the country, and the sugar giant Tate & Lyle being another. Prince Albert of Monaco also received more than $300,000 in CAP payments last year for his farms in France.

Another Oxfam study found that in Spain, 303 "golden names" in Spanish farming receive more than $440 million each year, representing more than $2 million for each farm. The seven top farms got $18 million, the same amount shared between the 12,700 smallest Spanish farmers.

In Denmark, Oxfam found four Danish Cabinet ministers, several of its MPs and even the country's EU commissioner receive multimillion dollar payments under the CAP. In the Netherlands, Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman was receiving $180,000 in subsidies, while further reports showed the country's biggest recipients of direct aid and export subsidies from 1999 to 2003 were the Dutch arm of Mars confectionary, Dutch brewer Heineken, and U.S. tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris.

In Slovakia, Agricultural Minister Zsolt Simon was recently reported to be the owner of a company that got $1.5 million in subsidies in 2003 and 2004. In Flanders, Credit Agricole Bank, Nestle, and other big corporations like Campina and BASF were among the top beneficiaries.

"These new figures help show why most of Europe wants to maintain the status quo -- even if that means crippling the WTO development round. The danger in this is that others like the US and Japan will get away with doing very little and placing the blame on the EU," Oxfam commented. "The losers of a continued stalemate will be Europe's small farmers, who need more targeted support, and millions of poor farmers in developing countries, who need an end to rich country dumping."

Most of the new figures for CAP subsidies come from countries that have already released details on the payouts in their countries. But France has resisted this, saying it is in favor of transparency in principle, but only "within the existing regulations" -- which allow the payouts to be kept confidential.

But France's veil of secrecy, only partly penetrated by the new investigative studies done by Oxfam and La Tribune, may soon be ripped away. EU Commissioner for administration and audits Siim Kallas announced last week the Brussels-based Commission now wants to publish in full all details of the subsidies and who gets them, everywhere in the EU. Several member states, including Denmark, Estonia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia and some Spanish regions, have already made information available.

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Farm Talks Collapse In Geneva
Washington (UPI) Oct 20, 2005
Global trade talks ended in Geneva Thursday without any agreement on agriculture, and with negotiators saying Europe's defense of its farm program is jeopardizing the success of a crucial World Trade Organization meeting in December.







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