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."