E.U. officials agree to overhaul subsidy-laden farm policy

by Emily Buckley
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BRUSSELS — European Union farm ministers reached agreement on reforms for the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy, which heavily subsidizes the continent’s farmers and has drawn continuous criticism from free-trade proponents, including the United States.

"The reform will completely change the way the E.U. supports its farm sector," the E.U. said, even though the reforms do not address subsidized exports of E.U. farm goods.

Representatives from the E.U.’s 15 governments approved the change by a 14-1 vote. While monthly subsidy increments in the cereal sector will decline by 50%, the current intervention price will remain unchanged.

"Now others must make a move," said Franz Fischler, member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries. "For example, our American friends, who, unlike the E.U., have over recent years revived their old system of support and massively increased their trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. Not practicing what you preach is unacceptable."

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman praised the decision but said that more progress remains necessary on the part of the European Union.

"The next critical step is for the E.U. to promptly translate today’s decision into meaningful W.T.O. proposals in the three core areas in the Doha declaration," Zoellick and Veneman said in a joint statement.

The two officials emphasized that those three areas include reducing trade-distorting domestic supports, eliminating export subsidies and "substantially" improving market access through tariff reductions.

"It is crucial that the E.U. press forward with significant agricultural trade reform promptly so that we can work with the E.U. and others to advance W.T.O. negotiations at the next ministerial meeting in Cancun (Mexico) in September," they said.