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WTO Trade Talks Collapse

Talks aimed at reducing or eliminating agricultural subsidies in rich nations collapsed Monday and it’s unclear when the talks might resume. The negotiations are known as the DOHA round of the World Trade organization.

Developing countries had been hoping for greater access for their agricultural and manufactured goods. However, the United States and European Union countries failed to agree on how that should be done.

Moussa Faye is the country coordinator in Senegal for the NGO ActionAid. From Dakar, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the collapse of the WTO talks.

“This is a disappointment, of course, and I feel somehow relieved also at the same time because the talks were going I think in the wrong direction ultimately. Because what was proposed on the table ultimately was of no benefit for poorer countries and Africa in particular.”

He adds, “The proposals from both the US and EU were about making some reductions that were not even essential in agricultural subsidies and agricultural tariffs respectively for US and EU. Again more trade liberalization in industrial tariffs for developing countries, which would have been very harmful because poor countries would have lost a lot in income taxes. They would also have lost in terms of deindustrialization.”

The United States and the European Union have blamed each other for the collapse in the trade talks. Faye says, “That’s the classical situation that EU is rather protective using tariffs to protect their market and US using a lot of subsidies also to be unfairly competitive with others. I think those two blocks of countries…were really the main part of the problem.” US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says recent proposals from other countries were becoming what he called “lighter and lighter.”