Two Chilean lawmakers whose constituents are mostly comprised of rural farmers have warned that a free trade deal with the United States would ruin the country's agriculture sector and endanger more than a million jobs.
Social democrats Jorge Tarud and Anibal Perez lashed out during a press conference Sunday against the free trade deal that Chile has been negotiating with the United States since December 2000 and which is due to be wrapped up this year.
This treaty "represents a threat to Chilean agriculture and could be the cause of its ruin, especially considering the $170 million in new farm subsidies of the administration of (U.S. President) George W. Bush", Tarud said.
He added that subsidies of this magnitude "at a time when the European Union is cutting them back" will endanger more than a million jobs in four farming regions in southern Chile.
Perez, noting that 50 percent of the earnings of U.S. farmers come from government subsidies, said that "under these conditions a small economy like ours will have no way to compete with the avalanche of imported agricultural products that will arrive here, which will produce an imbalance in the local market."
Both lawmakers said they would call on Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear to report on the course of the negotiations at a closed-door session of parliament