PositionTrade and development

One of the issues left pending during the summer months is the EU's sugar policy - a classic confrontation between the EU's conflicting objectives in trade and development. The European Commission's proposals to overhaul its protective sugar regime after nearly forty years have catalysed vigorous opposition between what seem like immoveable objects and irresistible forces.

On the one hand, the Commission - partly under pressure from the World Trade Organisation - argues that artificially maintaining high prices is an unjustifiable distortion of trade and a recipe for "slow, painful death" for the EU's sugar sector. This view is shared by a majority of member states and by most sugar producers around the world.

On the other hand, some of the EU's sugar-producing member states - and developing countries that have until now benefited from the EU regime - predict catastrophe: a drastic fall in EU production, and losses of hundreds of millions of euros of export earnings by African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

There is no doubt that sugar has led a charmed life until now: it is arguably the most-protected sector within the Common Agricultural Policy, shielded from global competition through guaranteed minimum prices, import restrictions and export subsidies.

At the same time, the industry provides jobs in many regions of the EU...

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