Norway irks its farmers, but collapse of global talks appeases

barleyLast week’s collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Geneva is causing soul searching among governments and NGOs, but was the cause of jubilation among Norwegian farmers, according to Aftenposten.

Norway’s farmers were disappointed with negotiators for signing off on a WTO deal that would reduce its protective tariffs. Norwegian farmers fear that tariff cuts would hurt the country’s farming industry by allowing cheaper imported goods to flood the market.

Norway’s farm lobby and members of the Centre Party, which represent the interests of Norwegian farmers, were upset that party member Lars Peder Brekk had gone against their agenda at the recent WTO meeting in Geneva. Brekk, who is serving as Norway’s agriculture minister, was part of a government coalition that accepted the WTO’s proposed tariff cuts in Geneva.

Farming advocates argue that the tariff cuts would open Norway’s market to cheap foreign imports and threaten local farmers’ grip on the domestic market. But Brekk disagrees, claiming the farmers’ concerns were exaggerated. He and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store have signed off on the WTO deal.

The head of the Centre Party in Nordland stated “I’ve been very surprised over what’s been happening. Brekk better have a good explanation for this.” Brekk responded by saying the deal under discussion in Geneva would have still protected nearly 80 percent of Norwegian agricultural production, and the farmers’ fears were unfounded.