Fischler defends reform in face of US fire The March 11 agreement on the reform of the European Union's agriculture policy will not solve either its domestic food and farm policy problems or prepare it for the forthcoming international trade negotiations, according to experts at the US Department of Agriculture. Further CAP reform is likely to be needed before the middle of the next decade. Their early assessment of the recent CAP deal is that the EU will be forced to continue with a high level of export subsidies to maintain competitiveness of its farm and food exports on world markets. The delays in applying most of the reforms until 2003 would be a major reason for the continued lack of competivity. In addition the EU had failed to alter its system of direct subsidies to farmers to comply with WTO rules. US Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman criticised the EU's agreement on the CAP as "not much more than maintaining the status quo. "The failure to act boldly raises serious concerns that the EU will use export subsidies to compete unfairly in world markets." This will lead to further conflict, he warned. The American criticism provoked an immediate and strong reaction from the EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler. "Rather than permanently attacking the CAP, the US should perhaps examine its own policies which provide substantially more assistance per US farmer than the CAP does for EU farmers, but in a less transparent way and for less return to society," the commissioner retorted. He criticised Glickman's criticisms for being "incredible and regrettable". In a prepared statement, Fischler said Glickman should have "taken some time to study and analyse the agreement in detail before drawing his conclusions. "The US has always had difficulty understanding the philosophy underlying the CAP... it is unfortunate the many years of discussions and clarifications do not seem to have led to any greater appreciation on their part." Fischler made it abundantly clear the EU's agricultural policy is not up for negotiation when the next round of WTO talks start. {{PROVISIONS }}