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Sweden welcomes EU offer to eliminate farm subsidies



The Swedish government welcomed on Monday the offer by the European Union to eliminate EU agricultural export subsidies, which the Scandinavian country deems "devastating" for poor countries.

"This can hopefully help bridge the confidence gap between poor and rich countries that crippled the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun last fall," Minister for Industry and Trade Leif Pagrotsky said in a statement.

His comments followed an announcement by European Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler that the EU was prepared to abolish its agriculture export subsidies if other WTO members did the same.

The EU suggestion to abolish the subsidies, a move long supported by Sweden but denounced by many other EU capitals worried about the future of their countries' farmers, is finally a "clear initiative that shows leadership", Pagrotsky said.

"But to make progress, it is also necessary that influential countries, like for instance the US and also wealthier developing countries, must be prepared to change their positions," Pagrotsky added.

Paris meanwhile harshly criticized the proposal.

"This seems to exceed the (Commission's) negotiating mandate and also seems to be tactically very dangerous," French Agriculture Minister Herve Gaymard said on Monday.

Pagrotsky however maintained that the EU initiative was "an important step in the direction (of) true market openings for products from developing countries and an elimination of the destructive export support that exists in the rich world".

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