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Cablegate: Charge's Meeting with Agriculture Minister Sebesta

VZCZCXRO6905
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHPG #0094/01 0491549
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181549Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2173
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
INFO RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 3355
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0244

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 000094

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EEB/TPP/ABT, EUR/ERA
STATE PASS TO USTR
USDA FAS FOR ONA GYOUNG, AMANNIX; OSTA BMACKE CHAMILTON;
OCRA/JHIGGISTON,SNENON, CRIKER; AND OFSO DYOUNG
USEU FOR AG MINISTER COUNSELOR
EU MEMBER STATES FOR AGR AND ECON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD EZ PL
SUBJECT: CHARGE'S MEETING WITH AGRICULTURE MINISTER SEBESTA

PRAGUE 00000094 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On February 16, Charge d'Affaires Mary
Thompson-Jones met Czech Agricultural Minister Jakub Sebesta to
inquire about his position regarding the budget of the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013, U.S. beef access, and
agricultural biotechnology. Sebesta said that the Czech Republic
did not support a CAP that created competition between national
budgets. Rather the Czech Republic supported equalizing direct
payments, even if this meant lower levels of support. He noted that
the Czech Republic had not signed the February 3 Warsaw declaration
as the government was still debating a unified position on CAP
reform. He showed an openness to U.S. positions on biotech and beef
pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) and noted his ministry was
lobbying for a Government decision to support the elimination of the
EU's zero tolerance rule on trace amounts of unapproved varieties
found in imported agricultural commodities. End Summary.

------------------
The CAP after 2013
------------------
2. (SBU) Thompson-Jones noted that nine agricultural ministers from
the newer EU member states signed a declaration in Warsaw February 3
calling for a fair EU budget process for the Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP) and asked why the Czech Republic chose not to sign.
Sebesta replied that the Czech government was still developing its
position on the CAP budget post 2013 and needed a unified
interagency position before it could consider joining the
communique. He noted that a unified EU stance on the new CAP budget
had been a priority of the Czech EU presidency, but had been blocked
by, among others, Poland. He stressed that the Czech Republic
supports a direct payment system not based on historical yields and
which treats all member states fairly. He added that this did not
mean the Czech Republic would demand more money for its farmers.
Rather the priority for the Czech Republic is a level playing field,
even if this means reduced payments.

3. (SBU) Sebesta reported that due to budgetary difficulties, the
Czech Republic would only pay farmers between 60 and 65 percent of
the top offs allowed this year. In any case, he stressed that the
Czech Republic wants to avoid permitting national payments in the
future. He argued that the EU should not just make agriculture a
competition between national budgets, adding that there is no way
the Czech Republic could compete with France. (Comment: The current
CAP direct payment system, which is based on historical yields
rather than acreage planted, discriminates against farmers in the
newer member states, who receive significantly less support for the
same amount of production. Frustration among farmers in Central and
Eastern European (CEE) countries is growing as they continue to see
their domestic markets being flooded by more heavily subsidized
western European agricultural goods. New member state farm
protesters often display an EU flag with 27 stars, not 15, and
agricultural producers want equality. End Comment.)

---------
PATHOGEN REDUCTION TREATMENTS (PRTs) FACE PROBLEMS IN EUROPE
---------
4. (SBU) Thompson-Jones asked whether the Czech Agriculture Ministry
would support EU approval of the use of U.S. pathogen reduction
treatments (PRTs) in beef. Sebesta referred the question to
Stanislav Kozak, Deputy Minister responsible for commodities and
Ministry oversight of the Czech Veterinary Service. Kozak replied
that it would be hard to believe that post production practices
would be approved given that 26 member states had voted against
their use for poultry. He though it would be very difficult for the
Member States to support such treatments because they would have to
tell EU industries to allow Americans access when their food was
produced with different standards and regulations. This would be
seen as unfair to the EU producers who had been forced to invest so
much money into meeting all the requirements at each of the EU
mandated critical points of production.

5. (SBU) USDA Regional Agricultural Counselor Eric Wenberg
emphasized that PRTs provide an additional benefit to consumers and
that the beef in question already complies with EU regulations
including that they contain no hormones. Wenberg added that the
European industry also wanted to use these compounds, most of which
are organic and differ significantly from those used in PRTs for
poultry. Sebesta stressed that the Czechs had supported the U.S.-EU
interim beef agreement during their EU presidency and were strong
supporters of free trade. He suggested that the United States
needed to better educate the member states about PRTs if it expected
their support. He welcomed a U.S. industry visit or any technical

PRAGUE 00000094 002.2 OF 002


exchanges on this issue.

------------
OTHER ISSUES: GMOs, OECD MINISTERIAL
------------
6. (SBU) Thompson-Jones complimented the Czech Republic's continued
support for new varieties of agricultural biotechnology. Sebesta
said his ministry strongly supported the use of Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMOs) but noted that this position was not always shared
by the Ministry of Environment (led by the Green Party). He
reported that his ministry was pushing for a Cabinet decision to
support reform of EU legislation to eliminate the EU's current zero
threshold for unapproved biotech varieties in imported shipments.

7. (SBU) Sebesta noted that he will be unable to attend the upcoming
OECD Agriculture Ministerial in Paris due to previously scheduled
travel plans (he is going on a trade mission to Algeria), but noted
that the Czech Republic will be represented by Jiri Sir, the
Minister's advisor on EU and European issues. During the Czech EU
Presidency, Mr. Sir (pronounced SHEAR) headed the Agriculture and
Environment Unit at the Czech EU Mission in Brussels. Sebesta
closed the meeting by fondly remembering his six weeks spent
visiting and working on a Wisconsin dairy farm in 1994.

8. (SBU) Comment. The Czech Republic continues to demonstrate an
openness to U.S. positions on biotech and beef access issues.
Sebesta would like to see reform of the CAP, including possible
budget cuts, but doubts that the Western European countries will
willingly reduce their agricultural subsidies. End comment.

THOMPSON-JONES

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