Countdown to Cancun: Agricultural subsidies

Countdown to Cancun: Agricultural subsidies why should four per cent of the agricultural workforce (mostly affluent) in high-income countries reap the rich harvest of an international trade regime, when 70 per cent farmers (predominantly indigent) in developing countries get a raw deal under the same pact? This is a question member nations will be hard put to answer, unless they change their outlook drastically in the lead-up to the Fifth World Trade Organization (wto) Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September.

The possibility of such a shift seems remote, with key industrialised countries sticking to their guns on crucial issues such as domestic support measures (or general subsidies) and export subsidies. The disturbing fallout from the current impasse over liberalisation of the agricultural sector is that it may derail the entire negotiations. The March 31, 2003, deadline to work out numerical targets, formulas and other "modalities' for countries' commitments has already been missed (see: