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WTO nations lock horns at Doha Round talks
Cat : Miscellaneous
Date : 2006-07-01 11:14:21                      Reader : 391
 needs of underdeveloped countries . Even EU and developed countries are in disagreement with US. WTO to be or not to be depends on equality and benefits of all members, not only the rich .


Associated France Press (AFP) 1/7/2006

WTO nations lock horns at Doha Round talks


GENEVA (AFP) - World Trade Organisation nations launched a war of words issuing doom-laden warnings and urging each other to compromise as they sought to revive their struggling Doha Round talks on tearing down barriers to global commerce.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath threatened to walk away if Washington refused to offer deeper cuts in subsidies paid to US farmers.

"I’ll ring up my travel agent and get a flight home," Nath told journalists when asked how he would react if US negotiators did not budge during what are expected to be round-the-clock talks lasting until Sunday or Monday.

Earlier this week, WTO chief Pascal Lamy warned that the 149-nation organisation could no longer afford to duck a deal, after missing a host of deadlines during almost five years of stumbling negotiations.

Lamy said that postponing a decision would be a "recipe for failure," jeopardising efforts to conclude the Doha Round, which aims to slash barriers to commerce and provide a boost for developing countries.

The round, which was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, was originally meant to finish in 2004. Members subsequently set a December 2006 end-date.

Over coming days, trade ministers from around 60 key WTO players are set to try reach an interim deal on the mathematics for cutting subsidies and tariffs, a crucial step towards a final accord.

Lamy refers regularly to the "triangle" needed to spur the talks.

Besides US subsidy cuts and EU tariff reductions, key emerging nations such as Brazil and India should in turn make deeper cuts to barriers on industrial goods, he says.

Last year, in what it billed as a bold move to kickstart the stalled talks, the United States offered to cut its farm support by 53 percent.

The powerful G20 group of developing countries, which is steered by India and Brazil, instead demanded a 75-percent reduction. Anything less would lack bite and allow American agri-business to continue undercutting its competitors, it said.

The European Union, which has called for a 60-percent US cut, also stepped up the pressure on Thursday.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel challenged the United States to come forward.

"We will be very cautious, because cosmetic offers are not enough," Fischer Boel told journalists.

"We need real offers, specifically on domestic support, from the US. Domestic support is crucial."

The United States, which appears unwilling to make big concessions amid pressure from sceptical lawmakers and powerful farm lobbies, says its offer will bring real benefits to world trade.

US negotiators on Thursday dismissed "misguided" criticism and said other players, particularly the EU, must "step up to the plate."

The EU is under pressure to offer deeper cuts in its import tariffs on farm produce.

"I think if the European Union comes here not prepared to move at all, we will not conclude the negotiations," warned a US official.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said that Brussels was ready to make concessions, provided others also shifted their position.

"Every one of us can afford to compromise, none of us can afford to let the round fail," Mandelson told journalists.

"The EU is prepared, if the circumstances are right, to significantly improve our offer in agricultural market access, moving towards and close to what the G20 has asked for," he said.

The G20 has demanded that rich countries cut their farm duties by an average of 54 percent. The EU has so far offered a 46-percent cut.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Thursday painted a gloomy picture.

Compared to two or three months ago, "I have the impression that the gaps have actually widened or at least become harder," Amorim told journalists.

"My hopes of having some kind of concrete result are rather scarce," Amorim said before the six-way talks with Australia, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States, on the sidelines of the broader WTO meeting .

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