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Britain trains gun on EU farm subsidies

New Delhi, Jan. 7: While the European Union spends $ 2 a day on every dairy cow, a billion adults and children in developing countries struggle hard to survive on half of that sum: this is the paradox of protectionism.

Patricia Hewitt, British secretary of state for trade and industry today said, “UK is leading the way in pressing the EU to lower its farm subsidies. I am aware though that tough decisions lie ahead. When economies are not doing well, domestic pressures often turn towards protectionism”.

Addressing the Indo-British trade and economic relations organised by Ficci here today, Hewitt said the West should practise what it preaches. It should roll back its non-tariff barriers and raft of agricultural subsidies before asking the developing world to do so, said Hewitt.

“We in the West have a long way to go. The EU must open its markets and allow Indian products such as roses and mushrooms. It must also reduce agricultural subsidies and move away from flooding developing markets with cheap imports such as milk powder,” she said.

Halving proctectionist barriers to trade worldwide could boost developing country incomes by $ 150 billion a year, three times the amount currently given in aid to those very same countries. Quoting a World Bank estimate, Hewitt said, “Phasing out restrictions on agriculture could lead to higher incomes in developing countries of up to $ 400 billion by the year 2015”.

She added net welfare benefits to developing countries from CAP reform alone are estimated to touch $ 30 billion annually. Patricia’s visit to India marks the 10th anniversary of the Indo-British partnership and the first anniversary of the signing of the New Delhi declaration.

Since the creation of the Indian-British partnership 10 years ago, bilateral trade between the UK and India has increased by almost 70 per cent amounting to approximately £ 5 billion. Also, during this time more than 1,500 new Indo-British joint ventures have been approved.

“British Gas is very keen to increase its investment in India. The ICT sector (information, communication, technology), utilities and the food and drink sectors are all very keen to do more business with India.” Hewitt pointed out that 40 per cent of Indian agricultural produce goes to waste before it reaches the market.

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