Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Decision on Farm Aid Ends Deadlock in GATT Talks

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Decision on Farm Aid Ends Deadlock in GATT Talks

Article excerpt

`I DON'T want to eat cornflakes in a Japanese car!"

Despite that protectionist sentiment expressed earlier in the week by French Agriculture Minister Louis Mermaz, European farm and trade ministers finally hammered out an agreement on farm-subsidy cuts late Nov. 6 that will allow stalled international trade talks to move forward.

The European Community ministers' acceptance of the EC executive Commission's proposal for a 30 percent cut in farm subsidies over 10 years - after seven often bitter meetings over a month - caused a collective sigh of relief in Geneva, where the four-year Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks had ground to a halt.

But the question is whether the EC's negotiating proposal, which was accepted by France and Germany only after the Commission tagged on hefty guarantees for European farmers, offers enough leeway in the eyes of Europe's international trade partners.

"Our initial response is that the Community's proposition is manifestly insufficient to allow a multilateral accord on agriculture," says Nestor Stancanelli, economic minister to the Argentine mission in Geneva. Speaking as a member of the "Group of 15" leading developing countries, Mr. Stancanelli added, "the determining aspect for us now will be whether there is enough flexibility within the Community's offer to allow movement toward compromise." The EC decision revives hope among the 105 countries participating in the GATT negotiations that world-trade liberalization accords in 15 areas including textiles, services, intellectual property, and dispute settlement, can be reached by Dec. 3. That date marks the beginning of a week-long ministerial meeting in Brussels set to conclude the talks.

Arriving at the negotiating table with an agriculture proposal in its pocket will also allow the EC to shift from a defensive footing to a more offensive tack. …

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