Apec seeks EU compromise to unblock world trade talks

Nov 15 | Updated: Nov 16 2005, 05:30am hrs
World Trade Organisation talks will collapse unless the European Union offers to make bigger cuts to agricultural subsidies and allow more access to its markets, ministers from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation nations said.

Trade and foreign ministers from 21 APEC member economies met on Tuesday with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in Busan, South Korea, ahead of Apecs annual leaders forum on Nov. 18-19. The ministers will call for all 148 WTO members to break the current impasse in negotiations or there will be no progress in WTO talks, according to a draft of a final statement to be released on Wednesday and seen by Bloomberg News.

Theres an overwhelming view here that unless there is a breakthrough on agricultural trade, we are not going to get an agreement which will conclude the WTO talks, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer told reporters after the meeting. Unless the EU is prepared to put a new offer on the table in terms of access to European agricultural markets, there wont be any agreement. Lamy refused to comment until the APEC ministers release their statement. Presidents George W Bush, of the US, and Chinas Hu Jintao will join Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and 18 other heads of APEC in Busan this week. The leaders will try to keep the WTO talks from failing by urging the EU to lower agriculture tariffs that nations such as Australia and Brazil say are too high.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair called on EU and US negotiators to give ground on trade-distorting farm aid. To break the logjam, the EU and the US must go further, within the negotiations, on agriculture, Blair said in his annual foreign policy speech in London, a text released in advance shows. We must reduce trade-distorting subsidies. We must see a credible end-date for export subsidies. Blairs call was backed by Bush. Prime Minister Blair has challenged World Trade Organisation members to ensure that the Doha Development Agenda fulfills its market-opening potential that would help lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, he said in a statement released on Tues day.