Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton May Find Global Trade Accord Is Hard to Reach

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton May Find Global Trade Accord Is Hard to Reach

Article excerpt

AFTER clinching the North American Free Trade Agreement and hosting an unprecedented meeting of Asian Pacific leaders, President Clinton may find that the ultimate trade triumph - completion of a 116-nation global trade deal - is beyond his reach.

This week in Washington, Mr. Clinton and United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor met with the European Community's (EC) top trade official, Sir Leon Brittan, to try to resolve their outstanding differences in areas ranging from farm subsidies to film distribution. After the meeting, both sides acknowledged that serious problems remain.

US-European agreement is essential for a successful completion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the global trade talks that have dragged on for more than seven years. Economists estimate that if GATT can break down the principal barriers to commerce, the world economy will expand by $270 billion over the next decade.

But time is running out. GATT officials have set Dec. 15 as the date by which negotiators must reach agreement. "The US shares the commitment to complete the Uruguay Round in time," Sir Leon told reporters this week. "I think we are making progress, but we still have a long way to go."

The biggest obstacle is French opposition to reducing government supports for its farmers. Paris has demanded that a US-EC accord on cutting agricultural subsidies - the so-called Blair House agreement that was reached a year ago at Washington's official guest house - be re-worked.

But this week, the Clinton administration was steadfast in its position that the Blair House accord is not open to question.

"There will be no negotiating or reopening of the Blair House accord," Mr. Kantor said Tuesday. He had commented earlier that France had become isolated because of its position in world trade talks.

But a hopeful Sir Leon stressed, "We are continuing discussions" on ways to satisfy the French. Nonetheless, after two days of meetings in Washington, the EC trade commissioner left for Paris to deliver a disappointing message to the French government.

European analysts say that the 12-nation EC is practically paralyzed by continuing discord over political and monetary matters. …

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