Bush seeks to break Doha deadlock at Apec

Nov 17 | Updated: Nov 18 2005, 05:37am hrs
US President George W Bush lobbied Asian leaders to offer some concessions in global trade talks while keeping pressure on the European Union on agricultural tariffs to avert a collapse of the negotiations. The leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit should join together for success at World Trade Organisation talks next month with the understanding that its in our nations interests to have free and fair trade, Bush said at a news conference on Thursday in the ancient Korean capital city of Gyeongju. He cited World Bank projections that hundreds of millions of people will be lifted out of poverty if the round of negotiations goes forward.

The US has proposed a reduction in agricultural tariffs and subsidies that Bush said would eliminate barriers over 15 years. The European Union, reigned in by France, rejected the US proposal and instead offered other reductions. Both the US and Europe are looking for concessions from Asian nations on services and industrial goods. At stake is about $300 billion in trade, according to Myron Brilliant, vice-president for Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce.

If the Apec economies cant collectively come up with forward movement on trade and open markets, that would be unfortunate for the global trading system, Brilliant said in an interview at the Apec talks.

Its absolutely critical for the leaders of these 21 countries to come out with a very strong statement on trade.

Apecs 21 members account for almost half of all worlds trade. Yesterday in Japan Bush said the group can use its influence to push for an ambitious result in trade talks that are foundering ahead of a World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong next month.

Bush met with South Korea Prime Minister Roh Moo-Hyun today in Gyeongju and will attend a summit of APEC leaders tomorrow.

Apec ministers said on Wednesday in a meeting with WTO Director- General Pascal Lamy in Busan that the talks would collapse unless the EU offers to make bigger cuts in agricultural subsidies and allow more access to its markets. Lamy is returning to Geneva where he is trying to draft a document on the parameters of negotiations on tariffs.