Canada disappointed with WTO farm proposal

Tue May 20, 2008 2:16pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has "serious concerns" about a new proposal for agriculture negotiations at the WTO and will defend supply management in the sensitive dairy and poultry sectors, the agriculture minister said on Tuesday.

Mediators in the core agriculture and industrial goods negotiations at the World Trade Organization issued revised proposals on Monday aimed at clearing the way for ministers to take the tough political decisions on cuts to tariffs and subsidies.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he was at odds with Crawford Falconer, the New Zealander who chairs the farm talks and drafted the new text.

"Canada has serious concerns with some elements of the chair's draft text," Ritz said in a statement.

"I am particularly disappointed that there has been so little progress in the area of sensitive products, despite my direct intervention with Mr. Falconer to express Canada's firm position on this issue," he said.

Canada protects its domestic dairy and poultry industries by regulating production and imports to ensure that supply matches demand, ensuring a predictable income for farmers.

"As we move forward, I want to emphasize that this government will continue to strongly support supply management ... as the talks proceed, Canada's position on sensitive products remains firm," Ritz said.

Falconer said there were relatively few "hot spots" left in the farm talks and expected progress could be made on remaining issues when negotiators meet on May 26.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway)