[DEBATE] : Reuters story confirming Mini-Ministerial cancellation!!
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Sat Apr 22 10:22:03 BST 2006
EU and U.S. trade blame; WTO deadline beyond reach
Friday 21 April 2006
By Richard Waddington and Doug Palmer
GENEVA/WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - The European Union and the
United States blamed each other on Friday for a stalemate in global
trade talks which put beyond reach an end of April deadline for a key
deal on farm and industrial goods.
Trading powers are struggling to bridge the gaps that stand in the way
of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Doha round before it finally
runs out of time.
Months of cautious diplomacy gave way to what appeared a trans-Atlantic
blame game, as diplomats in Geneva put a brave face on another setback
by promising to intensify negotiations.
Speaking in Helsinki, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said he was
"looking first to the United States" for "realism" on agriculture.
"What the U.S. is currently demanding is not acceptable to most WTO
members -- representing half of humanity in fact -- and not
implementable in Europe," he said in a speech.
Washington responded in unusually strong terms.
"The (European) Commission is quite adept at speeches, press conferences
and finger-pointing," Christin Baker, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade
Representative's office, told Reuters.
"We just wish they would put the same energy into the needed
negotiations to make Doha a success," she said.
The Doha round, which is also seeking to cut barriers to international
trade in services, was launched in late 2001 to boost the global economy
and lift millions out of poverty.
The talks cannot drag on beyond July or there will not be enough time to
finalise all the detail before U.S. presidential powers to negotiate
trade deals lapse in 2007, diplomats say.
The April deadline for a deal on farm and industrial goods, pillars of
any eventual trade treaty, was set by trade ministers last December. At
the time it had been expected that many of them would come to Geneva to
finalise a pact.
*But at a meeting on Friday evening of some two dozen leading WTO states
with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, it was decided that ministers
should not come. Nor will new deadlines be set.
"Ministers will come when we are ready," said Brazil's ambassador to the
WTO Clodoaldo Hugueney. "The important thing is we decided to move to
continuous negotiations," he added.
Mandelson has spent much of his 18 months as Europe's trade chief under
pressure to go further with the EU's offer of farm tariff cuts. But that
is stiffly opposed by farming countries in the bloc, especially France.
He has criticised what he says are holes in the U.S. proposals,
including plans to cut subsidies paid to farmers.
"While we, since 2003, have been implementing decisions the U.S. has yet
to cut a single dollar or dime from its escalating farm spending,"
Leading developing countries, including Brazil and India, also had to
make real cuts, not simply reduce ceilings, in the tariffs they impose
on industrial goods such as cars and chemicals which are of key interest
for the EU, he said.
Aid group Oxfam, which campaigns for the world's poorest countries, said
it was disappointed at the "blame tactics."
"Until both trade superpowers get serious about their promises to make
this a development round, deadlines will come and go and a deal that
helps the poor will remain elusive," said Luis Morago, head of Oxfam
International in Brussels.
The announcement this week that the U.S. Trade Representative, Rob
Portman, will leave his post to run the U.S. budget has added to
concerns that the talks could fail.
"When a deadline is not met, it is a serious situation," said one WTO
ambassador, who declined to be named.
But despite the fresh failure, the mood at WTO headquarters was not pure
despair after the latest round of talks.
Some progress was made on technical issues, such as food aid and export
competition, and diplomats accepted a plan by New Zealand ambassador
Crawford Falconer, the talks' mediator, for six weeks of non-stop
bargaining beginning in May.
"Deadlines have no credibility. What we have to concentrate on is
getting the job done," Falconer told journalists.
(Additional reporting by William Schomberg in Brussels and Rex
Merrifield and Laura Vinha in Helsinki)
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