A global trade deal would put pressure on Europe’s cattle industry, a top EU official said amid moves to revitalize the stalled Doha negotiations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is pressing to break an impasse between the United States and India that scuttled attempts to end protracted talks aimed at liberalizing global trade.
Any deal would probably entail a lowering of tariffs, which could increase competition in the market for EU-raised beef. “It is obvious to me that when you look at the beef sector in Europe, we would be under extreme pressure because of the fact that we would have to reduce tariffs dramatically,” Mariann Fischer Boel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, told reporters at the 17th World Meat Congress in Cape Town.
“The beef sector in Europe would be under pressure and farmers in some member states are not extremely happy,” she said, adding that the EU was in favor of concluding the trade talks.
Fischer Boel said the EU would not import beef from the world’s top exporter Brazil until it complied with vigorous safety checks, specifically around the “traceability” of meat amid concerns of foot and mouth disease.
“I am a firm believer of the importance of trade and I want to see these problems cleared up as soon as possible,” she told delegates.
The US and India have refused to compromise over a proposed safeguard mechanism allowing developing countries to protect poor farmers by raising tariffs to counter a surge in subsidized imports.
Heavily subsidized European farmers have been at the forefront of protests and lobbying against the proposed trade regime, arguing that new tariffs and market access terms would harm their business.
However, developing countries said that reducing subsidies to farmers in advanced economies was vital to remove trade-distorting barriers and improve global trade.
Besides the likely WTO-linked impact, European livestock farmers are already battling higher energy and feed input costs, as consumers also become more discerning in the face of a worldwide economic downturn. (Reuters)