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Global trade deal still possible, say Bush and EU

June 21, 2006

By William Schomberg

VIENNA (Reuters) – President Bush and European Union
leaders said on Wednesday a long-delayed world trade deal was
still possible despite deep transatlantic differences over who
should make the next move.

“The point is we are committed to a successful (trade)
round and it is going to take hard work,” Bush told reporters
after what he said were “very frank” talks on trade at an
EU-U.S. summit. “My view is we cannot let this round fail.”

The World Trade Organization’s Doha round was launched in
2001 to boost the global economy and help poor countries.

However, it is at least two years behind schedule and risks
being delayed by several more if a deal is not reached soon.

The EU and the United States are arguing over their
respective protections for farmers, and both are trying to push
big developing countries such as Brazil to open up their
markets in industrial goods and services.

“The Europeans have problems with the U.S. position, we
have problems with the European position, we both have problems
with the G20 (group of developing countries) position,” Bush
said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he
was convinced a successful round could still be reached.

Negotiators from around the world will meet in Geneva from
June 29 to seek a deal on two pillars of the round — lowering
barriers to trade for agricultural and industrial goods.

DOWNBEAT COMMENTS

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said there was a risk
the negotiators would not be able reconcile their differences
at the meeting, echoing downbeat comments from other
negotiators.

“It may be the June ministerial meeting is a full dress
rehearsal for a later meeting at the end of July. I can’t
foresee what will happen,” Mandelson told reporters.

Last week, Jason Hafemeister, deputy assistant U.S. trade
representative for agriculture, said the WTO might have to wait
until July to reach those agreements.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said on Tuesday
there were “lots of doubts” whether a deal could be done in
June.

Mandelson said he was encouraged by representatives of a
U.S. chamber of commerce who said U.S. business would push
Congress not to block a WTO deal over concerns on agriculture.

“That drumbeat on both sides of the Atlantic is
encouraging,” he said after meeting chairmen and chief
executives of some of the biggest EU and U.S. companies.

The EU says it could go further than previously announced
with its agricultural import tariff cuts and the onus is now on
the United States to further slash subsidies it pays farmers.

However, Washington says the new EU offer looks like a mere
sweetener to plans it has long dismissed as too modest.

Aid campaign group Oxfam blasted both sides for wanting to
keep protections for farmers at the expense of poor countries.

“These talks are floundering because neither the EU nor the
U.S. will blink first,” said Oxfam spokesman Louis Belanger.

“For months now, (they) have stuck to their inflexible
positions and have put the trade round in jeopardy. No one else
has the power to conclude this round successfully.”


Source: reuters



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