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U.S. remains firm on food aid at WTO talks

U.S. remains firm on food aid at WTO talks

   U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said the United States has no intention of accepting a European Union proposal to replace commodity-based food aid programs with “cash only” programs.

   In July 2004, the EU proposed that the cash-only program be included in the World Trade Organization Ministerial negotiations, claiming that U.S. commodity-based food aid causes commercial displacement in underdeveloped countries.

   “Certainly the United States doesn’t support it,” Portman told reporters at a press conference in Hong Kong Thursday.

   “About 58 percent of our food aid goes for emergencies — food to the poorest of the poor, the hungriest people in the world who need it,” he said. “Why would we want to take food out of the system?”

   Portman said the reason why the EU wants a cash-only program for food aid is simply because “they provide less food aid.”

   Portman specifically noted aid relief to war-torn Darfur. “I would challenge you to look at who is providing food in the Darfur region. It is the United States. There’s no cash-only going there. They need food,” he said.

   U.S. trade officials said they’re willing to discuss the “commercial displacement” issue raised by the EU.

   “We think it’s an important issue to deal with,” Portman said. “We don’t think there should be commercial displacement in food aid.”

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