G8 battle over aid for Africa

United States President George W Bush is preparing to bury a radical French plan that would help some of the world’s poorest farmers by ending the dumping of subsidised Western food in Africa.

A war of words over the plight of the world’s poorest continent is brewing after European Union officials accused the US of blocking the ban on export subsidies.

In a separate attack, Bush blamed European opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods for causing hunger in Africa.

France’s President Jacques Chirac had been hoping that next month’s G8 summit of the world’s eight most powerful countries in Evian, France, would be a chance to unite Western leaders around a rescue plan for Africa.
But the chances of a transatlantic rapprochement are looking slim.

Bush said opposition to GM food in Europe had forced several starving sub-Saharan African countries to refuse American GM food aid.

And two weeks ago, Washington mounted a legal challenge at the World Trade Organisation to Europe’s moratorium on GM food imports. Bush said he would be using the Evian summit to urge EU governments to cut the $4-billion a year they spend subsidising farm exports. But the White House is vehemently opposed to any discussion at the G8 of cuts to its own export-support programmes, which campaigners estimate amount to between $3,5-billion and $4-billion.

Aid agencies are pressing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to use his “special relationship’’ with Bush to persuade Washington to back the Chirac plan, which would help put a floor under commodity prices on which most African economies rely.

Campaigners were highly critical of the G8 last year for its failure to deliver a blueprint for African reconstruction, despite raising expectations ahead of the summit.

France now fears that the fallout from the war against Saddam Hussein will poison this year’s event.

Washington’s counter-proposal will allow the US to pump even more money into American farms under the guise of aid. — Â

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