Developing Countries Say Farming Key to Reaching Doha Trade Deal

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA, Nov. 16 (Reuters) -- Opening up rich country farm markets is crucial to the success of long-running trade talks, which must focus on the needs of developing countries, poor nations said on Thursday.

The call amounts to a challenge to rich countries to say exactly what they are prepared to offer in agriculture to bring the faltering Doha round of talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to an early conclusion.

A successful outcome would inject confidence to a world economy shaken by the credit crisis but in which developing countries have increasing weight, said the ministers and senior officials representing nearly 100 countries.

They were talking after meetings called by Brazil to take stock of the Doha talks.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the meetings had agreed that agriculture was a central part of the Doha round, launched six years ago to open up world trade and with a specific goal of helping developing countries.

"Any attempt to change this central fact that agriculture is the locomotive of the round of course is bound to fail," he told a news conference.

The main elements of a deal in the complex negotiations would involve developing countries opening up their markets for industrial goods in return for the United States cutting farm subsidies and the European Union cutting farm tariffs.

The poor-country focus on agriculture is at odds with rich nations' interest in a deal spanning all economic sectors.

"A successful result can only be achieved if we secure new meaningful trade flows in agriculture, industrial goods and services," Christine Bliss, assistant US trade representative for services and investment, said in a speech in Washington.

The talks have run into yet another blockage in recent weeks with the United States accusing middle-income developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa of seeking too many exemptions from proposed compromises. …