Mexico, September 8, 2003, Cropchoice -- (Reuters):
President Bush reached out to developing world leaders
on Monday to break a deadlock on agriculture that has
blocked progress in world trade talks, a White House
As top trade officials gathered for a World Trade Organization
meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun, Bush worked
the phones, calling Brazilian President Luiz Inacio
Lula Da Silva, Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf,
South African President Thabo Mbeki and Indian Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
``The purpose of all these calls was to talk about
the importance of the World Trade Organization ministerial
in Cancun. The president noted that an ambitious, successful
outcome in Cancun, especially in agriculture, would
benefit all countries,'' White House spokesman Scott
McClellan told reporters during a trip by Bush to Nashville.
WTO members have missed almost every deadline they
set for themselves when they launched talks on a global
trade deal 22 months ago in Doha, Qatar.
World Bank President James Wolfensohn said on Monday
he expects no major breakthrough at the Sept. 10-14
trade talks even as senior ministers tried to find common
ground on farm subsides seen as a major stumbling block
to a deal.
``It would be hazardous for anybody to predict that
Cancun is going to be a breakthrough. It is our hope
that there will be some progress,'' he told reporters
The five-day trade meeting opens on Wednesday but top
trade officials from the United States, the European
Union and other countries kicked off bilateral talks
on Monday morning.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick met separately
with South African Trade Minister Alec Erwin, EU Trade
Commissioner Pascal Lamy, Indian Commerce Minister Arun
Jaitley to see where countries could narrow their differences.
Both the European Union and the United States face
pressure to cut tens of billions of dollars in subsidies
to their farmers and open up their agricultural markets.
Without progress on agriculture, it will be difficult
to narrow major differences in other key areas like
industrial tariffs and investment rules.
Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile, who was scheduled
to meet with Zoellick late on Monday, said agricultural
exporters would not accept any weakening of the commitment
countries made in Doha to aggressively reduce domestic
farm subsidies and tariffs and move toward eliminating
Officials hope the target for reaching a global trade
deal by the end of 2004 can still be achieved if countries
can agree on general principles for reforming farm trade
-- the issue of greatest importance for most of the
WTO's 146 members.
U.S. negotiators want developing countries to lower
their own agricultural tariffs and the EU to agree to
a formula that would harmonize the level of farm spending
across the Atlantic by requiring Brussels to make deeper
As its price for farm trade reform, the EU wants countries
to agree to launch negotiations aimed at establishing
new international rules in four areas -- investment,
competition policy, customs facilitation and government
India and many African countries strongly oppose talks
on investment and competition. They fear the negotiations
could lead to commitments that they would find difficult
to implement and then be exposed to legal challenges
at the WTO.