After debacle, its time to swap blame

GENEVA, july 25 | Updated: Jul 26 2006, 05:30am hrs

EU: US must take blame for wrecked trade talks

European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson stepped up his criticism of the US for torpedoing global trade talks and put forth a seven-point plan to salvage some benefits for poor countries.

In two-day talks among six key World Trade Organisation governments, the US showed no flexibility at all on the issue of domestic subsidies on agriculture, Mandelson told a Brussels news conference on Tuesday.

The breakdown of talks that resulted is deeply regrettable, disappointing and it could have been avoided.

The gaps between us were not great. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy on Monday suspended the free-trade discussions as negotiators from the US, EU, India, Brazil, Japan and Australia failed to bridge differences over market access for agricultural products and domestic farm aid. A trade deal was expected to pump at least $96 billion into the global economy, according to World Bank estimates.

The suspension of negotiations will have significant negative consequences in global trade, particularly for developing countries, Mandelson said.

The 149-nation WTOs poorest members, such as Angola, Lesotho and Haiti, stood to gain the most from a trade agreement.

Those countries can still be helped by what Mandelson called his seven-point action plan for salvaging or extending the development agenda. He called for the WTO to push ahead with the aid-for-trade package and continue to put together a new agreement on trade facilitation.

The WTO should also carry out an agreement reached in Hong Kong in December that offers duty-free, market-free access for the worlds least-developed countries, Mandelson said. In the short term, we should ensure that the more needy developing countries do not fall victim to the inability of WTO members to strike a deal, he said.


EU statement on WTO talks failure false, says US

The United States on Tuesday accused the European Union of issuing a false and misleading statement blaming it for the suspension of global free trade talks.

In a statement issued by its Geneva trade mission, Washington said it hoped Brussels blamesmanship would not jeopardize the few chances left we have of reviving the talks. World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy called a halt on Monday to nearly five years of negotiations on a free trade deal, saying differences between the major powers could not be bridged.

EU trade commission Peter Mandelson pointed the finger at the United States, saying Washington had refused to produce any new proposals for slashing farm subsidies. The statement by the European Union alleging that the United States failed to show flexibility ... and attempting to divert blame for the stalemate is false and misleading, the US mission said. US trade representative Susan Schwab said on Monday that Washington would have made a further offer on farm subsidy cuts had the European Union and India been prepared to lower tariffs to let US farmers export more. During recent discussions, it became clear that the EU was in fact offering even less market access than originally thought, the statement said.

It also accused Brussels of simultaneously announcing an improved offer on tariffs, or market access, and then removing it from the negotiating table. The United States has sought to conduct this negotiation without resorting to blamesmanship and finger pointing, it continued. We are deeply disappointed that the EU failed to exhibit similar restraint and hope that this will not jeopardize the few chances we have left to save the (WTOs) Doha round, it said.