Officials See Global Trade-Talk Hurdles; European Countries Urged to Reduce Farm Subsidies, Tariffs

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Officials See Global Trade-Talk Hurdles; European Countries Urged to Reduce Farm Subsidies, Tariffs


Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Global trade talks likely will hang in the balance next week when officials from the United States, European countries and other nations meet in London and Geneva, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman told lawmakers yesterday.

"If we can't pull it together next week ... I think it's very difficult to see how we can pull it together in time for Hong Kong," Mr. Portman said, referring to a mid-December World Trade Organization summit there.

Two of the previous three WTO summits - in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun, Mexico, in 2003 - collapsed as rich and poor nations fought over farm subsidies, access to markets and other economic-development and trade-related issues.

Now the United States, Brazil and other nations are treating the 25-nation European Union as the odd man out. The countries have been pressing Europe to reduce its farm subsidies and tariffs, but France and other EU members have resisted the kind of cuts demanded.

"We expect the Europeans to be more forthcoming," Mr. Portman said after a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the WTO negotiations.

President Bush, who tomorrow and Saturday is scheduled to attend a meeting of leaders from North and South America in Argentina, earlier this week said countries in the Western Hemisphere should focus on pressing Europe to open its market and advancing the WTO talks.

"There's a spirit of cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil to get it done," Mr. Bush said.

He added that the North and South American nations should focus on the WTO talks, dubbed the Doha round, rather than a decade-old proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) among 34 democracies in the hemisphere. …

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