Fury at Agriculture Post For US Businessman


By Heather Stewart

April 28, 2003

Oxfam last night launched a scathing attack on the man the US has put in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq. Dan Amstutz is a former senior executive of Cargill, the biggest grain exporter in the world, and served in the Reagan administration as a trade negotiator in the Uruguay round of world trade talks.

Oxfam is concerned that his involvement is an example of the potentially damaging commercialisation of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which it would prefer to see conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director, said Mr Amstutz would "arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric", and was more likely to try to dump cheap US grain on the potentially lucrative Iraqi market than encourage the country to rebuild its once-successful agricultural sector.

"Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," Mr Watkins said. "This guy is uniquely well-placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market - but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country."

With President Bush on record as saying he wants American farmers to feed the world, Oxfam is worried that the Iraqi agricultural sector will be left unprotected from cut-price US competition at the crucial early stages of its reconstruction.

In a statement on Mr Amstutz's appointment, the US agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman, said the head of reconstruction would "help us achieve our national objective of creating a democratic and prosperous Iraq while at the same time best utilise resources of our farmers and good industry in the effort, both for the interim and the long term". The US government has been repeatedly criticised for giving preferential treatment to US firms in contracts to reconstruct Iraq.

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