July 12, 2004
-- CropChoice news -- GENEVA (AFP): Trade ministers
stepped up a campaign to overcome deadlock on agriculture
at a meeting of developing countries, amid signs that
attempts to revive global free trade talks by the end
of this month were faltering.
importers resist deal
July 7, 2004 -- CropChoice news
-- Washington Post, 07/06/04: Ten
food-importing nations said they won't accept
a World Trade Organization deal on liberalizing
trade in agriculture unless it preserves
high import tariffs. The so-called Group
of 10 said it cannot commit to cutting all
import tariffs by as much as other nations
would like because it would devastate its
farming communities. The nations -- WTO
members that consume more food than they
produce -- are Switzerland, Japan, South
Korea, Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel, Mauritius,
Norway, Taiwan and Liechtenstein.
Compiled from reports by the Associated
Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service
and Washington Post staff writers.
"The work in front of us is the size of a mountain. Everybody is willing
to make an effort but this is an uphill battle,"
Argentina's ambassador at the WTO in Geneva, Alfredo
Chiaradia, told AFP.
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and EU Trade
Commissioner Pascal Lamy were due to take part in the
meeting of G90 developing nations in Mauritius, along
with WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakhdi.
The 147 WTO members have set themselves an end July
deadline to agree on the broad outline of the way ahead
for the current round of trade liberalization talks.
The meeting on the Indian Ocean island came hours after
a weekend gathering of five trading powers ended in
Paris without a breakthrough on the issue of agriculture,
a major obstacle in the talks at the WTO.
Negotiations on the current trade round launched by
ministers in Doha, Qatar in 2001 were meant to last
three years, with a final accord on reducing trade barriers
in key sectors at the end of 2004.
Supachai Panitchpakdi said on Monday that the main
participants might lose interest if they could not see
results by the beginning of next year.
He told the French La Tribune newspaper that a meeting
of the WTO general council to be held in Geneva July
27 and 28 was "a historic opportunity and it would
be deplorable if this is missed".
"The main participants in the round risk losing
all motivation if they do not have a guarantee that
it will end, as planned at the beginning of 2005.,"
While Supachai noted "clear signs of political
will", pointing to pledges by the US and EU in
recent months to eliminate their subsidies for farm
exports, trade rounds are notoriously laborious.
The previous Uruguay Round, which set up the WTO in
1995, was concluded years behind schedule, and the agricultural
issue is a leftover from disagreement during those negotiations.
The informal meeting that ended in Paris Sunday brought
together chief negotiators from Australia, Brazil, the
European Union, India and the United States in an attempt
to forge a common position on farm subsidies and tariffs.
"The meeting was useful and possibilities of convergence
between the different points of view were identified,"
Brazilian trade minister Celso Amorim told journalists.
Like most of the other obstacles in the overall Doha
trade round, the farming issue pits rich countries against
Developing nations and agricultural exporters in the
Cairns Group of agricultural exporters want industrialized
states -- mainly the EU and US -- to get rid of subsidies
that they blame for pricing their produce out of world
There is also pressure to improve market access by
bringing down tariffs imposed on agricultural imports
to protect domestic farmers.
"I don't see the US moving on domestic support,
I don't see the EU moving on market access, I don't
see the light in many sectors," Chiaradia said.
Indian Trade Minister Nath Kamal underlined that talks
on market access must take into account the basic needs
of 600 million Indian subsistence farmers.
"Otherwise, it will not be possible," Kamal
EU officials gave a positive account but Lamy also
warned in the French daily Le Figaro that "one
should not expect a miracle".
The drive to overcome the deadlock that led to the
collapse of a WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico
in September 2003 has shifted to Mauritius, where the
G90 were due to lay out a united front on agriculture.
The WTO chief agriculture negotiator has delayed a
proposal for a compromise on the agriculture talks to
take account of the outcome of the meetings.