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[e-drug] G8 Commits to Free Trade

E-drug: G8 Commits to Free Trade
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G8 Commits to Free Trade

By Mark John
Reuters, 2 June 2003

EVIAN, France - Group of Eight leaders pledged on Monday to
complete world trade liberalization talks on time by the end of 2004
but skirted transatlantic rows and came under fire for failing
developing countries.

A communiqué released by summit host France did not mention
either U.S. complaints over a European Union ban on genetically
modified food imports or disputes over support by both the United
States and the EU for their farmers.

The G8 leaders called for fairer trade for poor countries, but made no
reference in their statement to a proposal by French President
Jacques Chirac for rich states to level the playing field by suspending
subsidies on their farm exports to Africa.

"We are... committed to delivering on schedule, by the end of 2004,
the goals set out in the Doha Development Agenda," said the
statement, released at a G8 summit in Evian, France.

Aid group Oxfam called the statement "completely vacuous."

"Millions of African farmers are being ruined because they cannot
compete in local or world markets with heavily subsidized agricultural
products from Europe and the United States.

"But proposals to cut export subsidies are not even mentioned in the
G8's statement," Oxfam's Justin Forsyth said.

Leaders of the G8 -- the United States, France, Britain, Germany,
Italy, Canada, Russia and Japan -- said they would ensure a
ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September "takes all the
decisions necessary to help reach that goal."

The statement called on World Trade Organization members to work
on a "further substantial opening of trade in all areas" and urged
better market access, particularly for poor countries.

NO MAGIC CURE

The G8 nations agreed to seek a solution allowing poor countries
cheap access to patented medicines to combat major epidemics in
time for the Cancun meeting.

But the statement did not say how to meet the objections of the U.S.
pharmaceuticals industry, which are holding up a deal.

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres called the communiqué a
"catastrophic backslide" from the Doha declaration.

"This approach is an attempt to protect Western drug company
interests, rather than a genuine effort to improve access to medicines
needed to save millions of lives," it said.

The Doha round of talks has been stalled since an end-March
deadline to set the framework for farm negotiations was missed.

Disputes involve U.S. support to its farm sector and the 40 billion
euros ($47 billion) a year which the EU spends on agricultural aid,
export subsidies and minimum price guarantees -- and from which
France is by far the main beneficiary.

Last month the United States, Canada, Argentina and 10 other
countries filed a complaint before the WTO over a five-year-old EU
ban on imports of genetically modified organisms -- a long standing
trade issue.

Expectations for progress on trade from the G8 summit were low. But
with Africa slated as a major French concern, it would be
embarrassing for Chirac if his call for a moratorium on farm exports to
the continent never sees the light of day.

(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller and David Evans)
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