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US in no mood to compromise ahead of key WTO talks
Cat : International Conferences
Date : 2006-06-26 11:31:18                      Reader : 289

Simply they have to open their markets for rich countries products, that will not only liquidate marketing of theirs, but also strong compitition even in their local markets.


Associated France Press (AFP) 26/6/2006
US in no mood to compromise ahead of key WTO talks
by P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States may hold the key to achieving a global trade accord but appears unwilling to make concessions at a crucial WTO meeting this week amid pressure from sceptical lawmakers and powerful farm lobbies.

Already unpopular by the Iraq war, the administration of President George W. Bush fears more compromises to further open up the vast US market may be seen by voters in farm belts as costly ahead of Congressional polls in November.

Ahead of the Geneva ministerial meeting beginning Thursday aimed at breaking an impasse in the Doha Round of global trade talks, Bush received a blunt letter from a majority of senators asking him to direct negotiators to reject any "unbalanced proposal" made to the United States.

The note sent to the White House on Friday was signed by 57 Senators, a majority in the 100-member chamber, including the big guns from Bush’s Republican party, Charles Grassley and Saxby Chambliss, who head the powerful Senate finance and agriculture panels respectively.

The move came after the American Farm Bureau Federation, a big agriculture forum, and several other groups also wrote to Bush warning against offering deeper cuts in domestic support for agriculture than those already proposed by Washington in the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks.

Agriculture is the key to untangling the deadlock in the Doha trade talks, as it was in the predecessor Uruguay Round, and especially trading giants the United States and the European Union are in no mood to compromise on sensitive farm issues.

"Hopefully the ministers in Geneva will break the deadlock, but the negotiations had been going back and forth and are stalled because of a difficulty politically in changing the existing negotiating mandate," said Jeffrey Schott, a trade expert at the Institute for International Economics.

"It is very difficult for US negotiators facing a Congress that wants to see reciprocal commitments from developed and developing countries in order to change our current policies," he said.

Developing economies have been holding back formal liberalization offers on non-agricultural market access and services until rich nations improve their offers in agriculture, the sector with the highest trade barriers.

Last October, the United States offered to reduce domestic agricultural subsidies only if other countries reduce tariffs and other import barriers.

Washington said it would cut by 53 per cent the maximum permitted ceiling for its farm subsidies in return for an average 66 per cent reduction in farm tariffs.

The EU and some developing countries criticised the US plan as unreasonable, even as the end-of-June WTO deadline nears to reach consensus on the outlines of a deal to lower trade barriers in farm and manufacturing goods.

A glimmer of hope surfaced last week when a local media report said Washington could scale back demands for average farm tariff cuts and make more concessions in the subsidies it pays to American farmers, but the report was dismissed by officials.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy had earlier suggested that the United States and the EU move toward a proposal by the G20 forum of developing countries to cut farm tariffs by a minimum average of 54 percent.

"The US has not put another offer on the table," said US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, the chief US trade negotiator, calling the October 2005 offer "very generous."

"We are still waiting for our trading partners, the EU, Japan and advanced developing economies to match the market access proposal," said Schwab, who officially took over the job just this month.

The reassignment of her Congress-friendly and politically adroit predecessor, Robert Portman, to the White House management and budget office less than one year into his job had fuelled speculation that the Bush administration had lowered its WTO goals.

Underlining the apparent lukewarm US support for a global trade accord, Bill Thomas, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had earlier urged the administration to effectively call off the Doha Round talks and to shift focus to bilateral and regional trade agreements.

"Nobody should assume that the alternative to the Doha Round is status quo. We certainly would start asking for more FTA’s (free trade agreements), including with industrial countries," said Franklin Vargo of the US National Association of Manufacturers.

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