Subject: The Australian: E Timor fights trade barriers

The Australian April 03, 2002

E Timor fights trade barriers

By MIKE STEKETEE, national affairs editor

EAST Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta yesterday urged rich countries, including Australia, not to use artificial barriers such as quarantine restrictions to discriminate against exports from his and other poor nations.

Referring to outbreaks of foot and mouth and mad cow disease, he said: "I don't know of any food exports from developing countries that have caused as much havoc as the diseases ... that have come from developed countries.

"Yet we have been told we cannot export to Europe, to Australia, because of lack of quality. So-called quality control and quarantine are all a part of the protectionist barriers to protect rich farmers against producers from poor countries."

A spokesman for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service said he was not aware of any application to import to Australia from East Timor.

Dr Ramos Horta, who won the Nobel peace prize for his fight for independence, was speaking in Sydney, where he launched a Mission Australia report that urges government and business to co-operate with local communities in a new approach to bridging the growing gaps in Australian society. The charity is planning to extend its work to the fledgling nation, which becomes independent on May 19 following presidential elections.

Dr Ramos Horta said that while AusAID was one of the best development agencies operating in East Timor, what poor countries needed most was market access and fair prices.

"More and more rich countries subsidise their agricultural prices and the farmers in small countries lose their livelihood because of that," he said.

"The total amount of subsidies to agriculture in the US and Europe is billions more than the international development assistance from rich countries to poor countries."

He said while prices to growers of coffee, East Timor's largest export, had fallen, prices for consumers had not dropped. "The middle men are becoming richer and richer," he said.

He would like to see Australia provide more help to improve agricultural output, quality control and obtaining access to the Australian market.

"How would a farmer in a village somewhere in East Timor know how to bring their goods to Dili and Australia?" he asked.

"This is an area where Australia could help tremendously and it would be mutually beneficial because in the long run Australia would spend less money on development assistance." 

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