- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

During a two-day visit to Washington, German Labor and Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement spoke in favor of abolishing Europe’s discriminatory policy against genetically modified foods produced in the United States and elsewhere. Mr. Clement’s remarks represent a dramatic slap at the European Union’s policy toward U.S. farm exports by one of the EU’s own. The Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Clement as stating that he would assume the EU “would be ending the moratorium in the course of this year.”

Mr. Clement’s statement is significant because it directly contradicts comments by top EU officials. “The U.S. claims there is a so-called moratorium,” said Europe’s top trade official, Pascal Lamy, last week. But “the fact is that the EU has authorized G.M. [genetically modified] varieties in the past and is currently processing applications,” he added. What Mr. Lamy failed to say is that the European Union has approved only two applications for new biocrop imports.

Mr. Clement’s comment also makes global divisions over the farm trade issues more entrenched. Increasingly, the United States is in accord not only with the developing world on a host of farm issues, but also with parts of Europe — some of it “Old Europe.” Germany, along with Britain, Holland and Sweden, backs the kind of agricultural subsidy reform that the United States is calling for, while France, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the French-speaking part of Belgium are resisting it. Mr. Clement’s unminced words on genetically modified food create a new division on a farm trade issue, teaming Germany (which has Europe’s largest economy) with the United States.

Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick raised an alarm that the global fissures on agricultural issues endanger the ongoing global trade round. “We can’t succeed if agriculture stays stuck,” he said. Surely, the global discord over agriculture is becoming more contentious. The United States earlier this month challenged Europe’s ban on genetically modified goods at the World Trade Organization. And this week, President Bush charged that Europe’s stance was thwarting the kind of innovation that could end world hunger.

Given Germany’s economic importance in Europe and globally, its call to end the genetically modified food ban could help break the impasse over agriculture and help restore the trade round’s much-needed momentum.

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