May 4, 2006

Mandelson says US largely alone on WTO farm demands

By Josiane Kremer

ERMATINGEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - The vast majority of
World Trade Organization (WTO) states, including the Brazil-
and India-led G20, oppose U.S. demands on farm tariff cuts,
European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson said on Thursday.

"I agree with the Brazilian chief negotiator that we have
to introduce realism as well as ambition," Mandelson told

The United States is demanding that the EU slash its
agricultural import tariffs on average by over 70 percent to
help secure a WTO treaty to free up trade across the global
economy, the so-called Doha round.

The WTO missed an end-April deadline for a deal on farm and
industrial goods, seem as a vital step to an overall pact, and
it needs an agreement within the next few weeks or it risks
seeing its four-year-old trade negotiations collapse.

Diplomats see the end of July as the absolute deadline for
a complete draft deal, so farm and industrial goods must be
wrapped up well before then.

Asked whether the end-July target was possible, Mandelson
replied: "I can't say at this stage. It is by no means certain
but by no means impossible."

Washington says that a better EU offer on farm tariffs is
crucial to unlocking the talks, where both the Europeans and
the Americans are under pressure to give more on agriculture
and the bigger developing countries, such as Brazil and India,
more on industrial tariffs.

But Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said in Geneva
this week that what the United States was seeking on farm
tariff cuts, which it hopes will trigger offers of deeper cuts
in developing countries, was unrealistic.

Amorim said there was a need to mix ambition with realism
and that the G20 call for average farm cuts in rich nations of
54 percent offered the best chance of a deal.

"The European Union, the G20 group of emerging economies,
G90 group of developing countries -- and between us we
represent the overwhelming bulk of WTO members -- cannot accept
the American proposals," Mandelson said after addressing a
business conference.

But U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman has said the U.S.
call for greater market access, WTO-speak for lower tariffs, is
backed by a wide swathe of the WTO's 149 member states.

Portman was in Geneva this week along with Australia's
Trade Minister Mark Vaile and Japan's Agriculture Minister in a
show of political support for the Doha round.

"There's been some talk lately about the fact that the
United States proposal isn't realistic, that we're asking for
too much. I would disagree," he told a news conference on

"I would say that based on the conversations we've had this
week, the United States is in league with the rest of the
membership of the WTO."