Monday, December 19, 2005

Kinnithrung Sprat

I would love to be optimistic about the WTO summit in Hong Kong. After all, it looks like there has been some progress. The European Union agreed to eliminate subsidies for exported farm goods by 2013 and the US has agreed to end cotton subsidies earlier than other subsidies. Also, duties and quotas on 97 percent of imports from 32 of the poorest countries will be elimnated.

But these compromises will only take effect if the full accord is passed. And with so much left that is in dispute, an agreement looks doubtful. France and the US are blocking many measures that would force them to cut more of their farm subsidies. And while the farm subsidies exist, developing countries whose economies are highly based on agriculture will have trouble competing in the global market. Even if the US agrees in principle to further reductions in subsidies, the agreements will still have to be approved by Congress, where even the current concessions could be controversial.