- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

The president of Uganda yesterday accused the United States and other Western countries of disrupting international commerce by subsidizing their own industries and encouraging overproduction, especially in agriculture.
President Yoweri Museveni said that government payments to farmers in rich countries contradict the "trade not aid" philosophy of the Bush administration, which he otherwise complimented for working to build trade ties with Africa.
"These subsidies are wrong and they interfere with international trade," Mr. Museveni told reporters after a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. "Let's get rid of these subsidies and forget about [aid]."
Mr. Museveni spoke after a visit to Washington that included meetings with President Bush and several senior administration officials. It also came as Mr. Bush signed into law new farm legislation that dramatically boosts subsidies paid to American farmers of wheat, corn, soybeans and other commodities.
The new law will pay out about $190 billion over 10 years, although the key programs it contains must be renewed after six years. Mr. Bush defended the bill as a "safety net" for farmers, but acknowledged criticism that the legislation is an election-year boondoggle aimed at farmers in key Midwestern states.
"It's not a perfect bill, I know that," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "But, you know, no bill ever is."
The issue of rich-country subsidies for agriculture has gained new prominence since the 44-nation World Trade Organization, after a November meeting in Doha, Qatar, kicked off a new round of talks aimed at lowering trade barriers. Government payments to farmers typically encourage overproduction and depressed prices, making it difficult for producers from countries that do not subsidize to keep up.
Key nongovernmental organizations have echoed the complaints of Mr. Museveni and other African leaders, accusing the United States and the 15-nation European Union in particular of hypocrisy.
"In their rhetoric, governments of rich countries constantly stress their commitment to poverty reduction," Oxfam, an international aid group, wrote in a report released April 10. "Yet the same governments use their trade policy to conduct what amounts to robbery against the world's poor."
While still very critical of the WTO, Oxfam broke with many other activists by arguing that a new round of trade talks could actually help poor countries by improving their access to markets in the United States, Europe and Japan.
Like many African leaders, Mr. Museveni was full of praise for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 2000. It provides key African products, especially textiles and apparel, with duty-free access to the U.S. market.
The Bush administration enthusiastically embraced the law, and Mr. Bush certified 35 African countries for its benefits in December. During the first year the law was in effect, textile and apparel imports from Africa jumped 37.8 percent.
Trade, Mr. Museveni said, creates jobs, improves government revenues, and helps end "the shame of African countries begging endlessly" for aid from Western nations.

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