- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union accused the United States and others yesterday of focusing excessively on farm trade at the expense of other aspects of liberalizing world trade and repeated it will not make a new offer to cut its agricultural tariffs.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson urged Europe’s trading partners “to engage seriously on creating new market access for goods and services” by cutting industrial tariffs and liberalizing trade in services.

He said farm trade concessions he made in the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks were “the most substantial offer” the EU has ever put forward, and that making more “would further unbalance the [WTO] negotiations” that head for a ministerial round in Hong Kong in two weeks.

However, developing countries meeting in Brussels yesterday said progress on agriculture was key to the global trade talks, urging the European Union and the United States to address disputes over such products as sugar, cotton and bananas that are not formally up for discussion.

The WTO ministerial meeting Dec. 13-18 is to focus on development issues to open markets and raise the world’s poorest nations out of poverty.

Hope is fading, however, that the European Union and its trade rivals, including the United States, Japan and Brazil, will make any significant progress at a meeting designed to narrow differences on removing obstacles to world trade in agriculture, services and industrial goods.

“This is a development round,” said Mr. Mandelson, “not an agricultural exporters round.”

He said a global trade deal can only be made if Europe’s partners “stop hiding behind unfounded criticism of the European Union, or patently unrealistic and tactical demands. … If they continue merely to ask for more from Europe, without paying into the pot themselves, they — not we — risk destroying” the current round of negotiations.

Both the European Union and the United States insist their offers will benefit developing countries.

“Through its preferential market access schemes, Europe already has the most open market for developing country agricultural goods in the world,” Mr. Mandelson said.

The European Union has offered cuts of 70 percent in trade-distorting subsidies to farmers and farm produce exporters and to reduce the EU’s average agricultural tariff to 12 percent from 23 percent.

The offer hinges on trade partners agreeing to open up their markets to industrial goods and jump-starting stalled talks on services — an area of huge potential for Europe.

Separately, representatives of U.S. companies in Europe made a similar appeal for progress in other areas yesterday.

“We hope a solution will be found for the blockage in agriculture,” said Mark van der Horst, chairman of the trade committee at the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. The chamber hopes to see global markets open not just for trade in products, but also for services in the delivery, financial, computer and telecommunications industries as well as other fields.

However, Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath said the European Union should not lump its farm offer with other parts of the talks. “You are not supposed to be distorting prices,” he said. “Now you say, ‘I am not going to distort. … Now what do I get for that, give me my pound of flesh.’”

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