Letter: We need the Gatt deal, but not at the poor's expense

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The Independent Online
Sir: I would like to add to Michael Simmonds' comments (letter, 29 September) about Joanna Blythman's article 'The Gatt deal is a recipe for disaster'. In a joint statement this week, the heads of the IMF, World Bank and the Gatt called on nations to recognise that there is so much at stake in the Uruguay Round negotiations that 'political hesitations and vested interests must now be put aside'. The potential boost to confidence and world trade and economic activity from a successful Round outcome is enormous while, conversely, the implications for the multilateral trading system of a failure to conclude the Uruguay Round would be serious indeed. France stands to benefit more than most. After all, it is the world's fourth largest exporter of goods and the second largest exporter of services.

In agriculture, one of the key objectives of the Gatt negotiations is to rein in the corruption of world agricultural markets, particularly cereals markets, through the exporting of subsidised produce. The CAP reforms will themselves have this effect - the Gatt would provide some surety.

The income support provided by the CAP reforms serves to introduce a desirable element of 'decoupling': subsidies are, to an extent, independent of the quantity produced, thereby discouraging the production of ever-increasing amounts of subsidised output. Farmers might thereby be induced to concentrate more on quality than quantity.

Let us be quite clear that the Gatt does not impose environmental or labelling standards. Countries are free to set their own standards to ensure the safety of their food or to protect their environment provided such measures are not being used simply as a non-tariff barrier.

Spare a thought also for farmers in other countries, including the unsubsidised farmers of Australia, many of whose incomes have not just been falling but have also been negative because of the unfair practices of others.

Yours faithfully,

ROBERT WALTERS

Counsellor

Australian High Commission

London, WC2

30 September

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