Letter: EC stumbling blocks to Gatt agreement

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The Independent Online
Sir: Having just returned from a week in Washington discussing with a variety of interested groups and individuals the problems of Gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), may I make the following comments?

The Americans remain unconvinced that the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reforms will reduce cereal surpluses, as do I and many of my colleagues. But the US is not so much concerned as to what European Community farmers are paid in compensation, as what effect the compensation has on cereal surpluses.

They accept that Europe wishes to be self-sufficient in food supplies but dumping surpluses on to the world market is not acceptable. Agreement on the volume of subsidised exports is now less of a problem and is surmountable. However, the main stumbling block is what the EC does about its oilseeds production. The US will not sign a new Gatt agreement while, as they see it, the EC refuses to adhere to existing Gatt rules.

It is obvious that the US is prepared for a trade war unless the EC accepts the Gatt ruling on oilseeds. All that is lacking to prevent this is the political will.

For the Council of Ministers to agree on this issue, it only needs a qualified majority, not unanimity. Therefore a solution from the Community is possible given the political will. The problem is, that European agriculture is once again setting the agenda, even though it accounts for less than 5 per cent of the Community's GDP. What a tragedy for world trade, jobs and employment opportunities.

Yours sincerely


MEP for Merseyside East (Lab)

St Helens,


23 October

The writer is chairman of the Land Use and Food Policy Intergroup of the European Parliament.