- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007


President Bush and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso agreed yesterday that the U.S. and Europe must resolve deep differences over farm subsidies that are stalling global free-trade talks.

“We both recognize that the best way to help impoverished nations is to complete this Doha round,” Mr. Bush said, referring to the World Trade Organization talks, “and to encourage the spread of wealth and opportunity through open and reasonable and fair trade.” Mr. Bush spoke after he and Mr. Barroso met at the White House.

Mr. Barroso said the two leaders instructed their negotiators “to come up with a solution as soon as possible.”

“There is now the defining moment. We are really at defining moment,” he said. “It will be a very important signal for the world community if we show that it is possible to have a global approach to trade and development.”

The two talked in the Oval Office for nearly an hour and continued meeting over lunch.

The World Trade Organization talks collapsed in July because of disagreement over how far the European Union, the United States and other wealthy countries should reduce the farm subsidies and tariffs that poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America say prevent them from selling their agricultural goods abroad.

Before leaving for Washington, Mr. Barroso said, “The U.S. holds the key to making a deal possible in 2007.”

The United States was criticized for refusing to cut the government handouts it pays American farmers. But Washington partly blamed the standstill on the European Union’s refusal to make deeper cuts in tariffs on agricultural imports.

Supporters of a trade deal are eager to find a resolution to the impasse. The Democrat-controlled Congress will consider this year whether to extend Mr. Bush’s authority to negotiate trade deals that can be submitted to Congress for simple yes-or-no votes without amendments.

The loss of that “fast-track” authority, set to expire in July, would make it much more difficult for any treaty to gain congressional approval, without which any global trade deal would be meaningless.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, briefing reporters on yesterday’s discussions, said there had been progress in recent weeks in getting a deal, but they gave no specifics.

The two trade officials said talks would continue in coming weeks not only between the 27-nation European Union and the United States, but also with other key players. Mrs. Schwab met last week with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in New York and is scheduled to hold talks this week with Japanese trade officials in Washington in an effort to bridge differences in the global negotiations.

“There is some stirring of momentum here, which is a welcome change from the numerous starts and stops,” she said.

Mr. Barroso also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

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