July 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Financial Times, 06/29/03: The
US has suspended plans to advance free trade talks with
Egypt in response to the Arab country's decision not
to join the US in a World Trade Organization complaint
against Europe's ban on genetically modified foods.
The harsh US retaliation against one of its closest
Arab allies has taken Egypt by surprise and set back
the initial stages of President George W. Bush's plans
for a region-wide free trade area by 2013.
Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, delivered
the tough message to Egyptian trade officials last week
after Egypt confirmed that it would not be a co-complainant
in the WTO case. Egypt says it is stunned by the fury
of the US response over what it says are small differences
over GM foods.
The US announced last month that Egypt - along with
Argentina and Canada- would join the US in a WTO complaint
aimed at forcing the European Union to approve the sale
of new GM varieties, which have been blocked since 1998.
Egypt's participation was crucial to the US claim that
the European ban is hurting developing countries as
well as US biotechnology companies.
But Egypt, faced with a domestic backlash, pulled out
of the case and has decided to pursue its complaint
against the EU separately. "If you're going to
do a free trade agreement with someone, it's important
that the people you're talking to are going to be able
to deliver," said a US trade official. "They
told us one thing and did another."