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Deiss defends Swiss farming at Cancun

The opening ceremony of the WTO trade talks in Cancun Keystone

The Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, has called for agricultural reform to be socially responsible and take account of different countries’ systems.

This content was published on September 11, 2003 - 10:23

Speaking at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference at Cancun, Mexico, Deiss also said Switzerland was prepared to make substantial concessions.

He told the 5,000 delegates that Switzerland wanted to strike a balance between protection of the country’s agriculture and the liberalisation of the markets.

“Switzerland is ready to make concessions,” said Deiss, who was the second to speak at the conference, which opened on Wednesday.

But he said that Switzerland would be seeking modifications to the final declaration to ensure that concessions were fairly balanced.

Deiss also called for the Doha trade deals to consider Swiss proposals on the coexistence of different types of farming, aimed at protecting farm subsidies.

The Doha agreement, launched in 2001 and signed by 146 WTO member states, aims to give a boost to developing countries by removing obstacles to their growth.

Stumbling block

But most of the deals’ negotiating deadlines have been missed, with the main stumbling block being agriculture, due to conflicting interests between richer and developing nations.

The United States and the European Union are under pressure to reduce agricultural subsidies from the Cairns Group, a union of 18 agricultural exporters including Australia and South Africa, which also includes poorer countries.

Switzerland fears that its farmers, who are heavily subsidised by the state, may be driven out of business by the move.

The country has put forward its own proposal whereby subsidies would be allowed for non-commercial aspects of farming such as consumer and environmental protection.

Protection

Deiss made it clear that Switzerland would be asking for amendments to be made to the final declaration of the Cancun ministerial conference, because it felt that the present text went too far in its proposals to open up markets.

“It’s necessary to have measures that are reasonable as concerns borders,” said Deiss, referring to the non-commercial aspects of the WTO negotiations.

But the economics minister said Switzerland was in favour of some measures such as extending the protection of regional product labels. This has so far only applied to wines and spirits.

He also called for the market for industrial products and the labour market to be opened in a fair and balanced way.

Deiss said Switzerland further wanted to open negotiations on investment and competition policy as well as on easing trade and transparency.

Deiss said the measures would reinforce world trade regulations and would fit in with the requirements of business in the 21st century.

swssinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has called for agricultural reform to be socially responsible.

Deiss was second to address over 5,000 delegates at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference at Cancun, Mexico.

Deiss said the Swiss would like to strike a balance between protection of the country’s agriculture and the liberalisation of the markets.

He called for amendments to the final text of the conference to ensure that concessions were fairly distributed.

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