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G20 agriculture ministers embrace protectionism, promising WTO reforms



BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Agriculture ministers from the G20 countries issued a joint statement criticizing protectionism on Saturday and vowing to reform World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, but not detailing what steps they take to improve the food trade would system.

The G20 agriculture ministers will be seen on July 28, 201

8 during a visit to the 132nd Argentine Agricultural Society in Palermo, Argentina, on July 28, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. REUTERS / Martin Acosta

In the statement, they said they were "worried about the growing use of protectionist non-tariff trade measures that are incompatible with WTO rules."

Ministers from countries such as the United States and China in Buenos Aires for the G20 meeting of Agriculture Ministers stated that they reaffirmed their determination not to take "unnecessary trade barriers" and reaffirmed their rights and obligations under the WTO Agreements.

The meeting took place in the midst of rising trade tensions that shook agricultural markets. China and other leading US trading partners have imposed retaliatory tariffs on American farmers after the Trump government imposed tariffs on Chinese goods as well as steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

U.S. Due to China's retaliatory tariffs, farmers are expected to generate estimated sales of $ 11 billion. Last week, the Trump administration said it would pay up to $ 12 billion to help the peasants survive the trade war.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines that Trump's plan would include between $ 7 and $ 8 billion in direct cash relief that US farmers could see by the end of September.

Despite the payments, the measures "will not hurt farmers," Perdue said.

Citing relief efforts by the Trump administration, German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said farmers "do not need help, they need trade"

"We have had a very frank discussion that we do not want that one-sided protectionist measures, "said Kloeckner in a press conference after the meeting.

Ministers, whose countries represent 60 percent of world agricultural land and 80 percent of trade in food and agricultural commodities, did not state what measures they referred to in the statement. Asked for details, Kloeckner said the ministers did not want to "criticize" a single country

"We all know what happens when a single person or a country does not abide by WTO rules and seeks to gain an advantage Protectionism, "she said. "This will usually lead to retaliatory tariffs."

In the statement, the ministers declared that they had agreed to further reform the WTO rules on agricultural trade.

"Regardless of all the news that existed (the meeting), we were able to reach a unanimous consensus," said Argentine Minister of Agriculture Luis Miguel Etchevehere.

U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reached an agreement on Wednesday to end the risk of further escalating trade tensions between the two powers.

After the meeting, Trump said the European Union would buy "a lot" of US soybeans.

Previously, Klöckner had told Reuters that trade relations between the United States and the European Union were improving, but that there was no guarantee that the bloc would import the amount of soybeans expected by Washington.

coverage by Scott Squires and Luc Cohen; Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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