WTO members slam new plan

Paris, July 17:

France slammed new World Trade Organisation (WTO) proposals aimed at finding a breakthrough in the deadlocked Doha Round of global trade talks.

French agriculture minister Michel Barnier said the “WTO document confirms the deep imbalance in the Doha negotiations.” The WTO’s chief negotiators made new suggestions yesterday for sharp cuts in farm subsidies in the US and the EU.

The negotiators proposed that developing countries reduce the tariffs levied on industrial goods from developed countries in return. “I am very deeply worried when reading this document at the absence of reciprocity when it comes to efforts demanded of different members of the WTO, in particular on internal support and export subsidies for agriculture,” he said.

Barnier said he was “worried at the proposals on market access which are of a nature that endangers the economic balance of our farm sector.” The WTO issued the two proposals in a bid to move the deadlocked Doha Development Round of trade liberalisation negotiations forward.

Barnier called for discussions within the 27-nation EU on the proposals leading to a “strong EU reaction to this document.” The proposals came one month after the failure of a meeting between the US, the EU, Brazil and India to unblock the Doha Round, which was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001. Representatives of the WTO’s 150 members are due to meet in negotiating groups next week in Geneva to give their initial reactions to the proposals.

Reaction to new proposals aimed at cutting agriculture protection will show whether there is any real chance of sealing a world trade deal this year, New Zealand trade minister Phil Goff said.

The chief negotiators at the WTO in Geneva proposed sharp cuts in US farm support and emerging country industrial import duties in an attempt to break the deadlock in the Doha round of trade talks. The new proposals were a necessary and welcome next step in Doha negotiations, Goff said. “All countries know now what is on offer in these negotiations and what we risk if we fail to conclude the round,” he said.

“Reactions to these papers will tell us whether there is a real chance of a WTO deal this year. Everyone will have to be prepared to compromise.” The new proposals call for cuts in US agricultural support to below $16.2 billion a year, compared to $19 billion allowed now, and reductions in industrial tariffs imposed by developing nations to less than 23 per cent, officials said.

“The proposals are aimed at ending nearly six years of deadlock in the Doha round launched in the Qatari capital in 2001.”