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“Talk to the Americans” on Trade, says Europe

  • November 23rd, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

resize.jpgAustralia’s Trade Minister, Warren Truss, has been asked by the European Union to “talk to the Americans” to try to get progress on stalled international trade talks.

The European Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, told the Minister the European side had “gone the extra mile” in making concessions, before the Doha round talks stalled last July.

A spokesman said it had proposed substantial reductions on tariff reductions and trade-distorting farm supports; and the Commissioner had asked if the Australians could now act as an honest broker, to help persuade the United States to give ground on lowering its support payments.

Mr Truss was in Brussels (22.11.06) for his first meeting since talking up the Trade portfolio with senior European figures – both Mrs Fischer Boel, and the External Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

Trade tour

He was finishing an eleven-day international tour, during which he has been pressing for an early re-commencement of the Doha round, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

His itinerary since leaving Australia on 12.11.06 took in meetings with senior representatives of the new Abe government in Japan, and Japanese business leaders; attendance at the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Vietnam; talks with Ministers of Australia’s two main trading partners in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia; and a meeting with the Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, at Geneva.

Pushing to re-start world trade negotiations

He said the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) gathering was a chance to speak with WTO member governments about Australia’s view, that the Doha Round negotiations should resume as soon as possible – following their suspension this year.

Scope for agreement

Mr Mandelson has been conducting his own campaign in support of a return to the trade talks; in a recent speech, at New Delhi 18.11.06, warning of adverse economic and political consequences if they do not resume quickly.

“The cost of failure is massively, massively out of proportion to the individual issues on which the negotiations foundered in July,” he said.

Progress had been made, with an “emerging consensus”.

That should be preserved, with the talks taken up where they left off, as “a balance between the need to advance decisively on farm trade liberalisation and the need to respect the reasonable agricultural sensitivities of the less competitive.”

“There is no realistic alternative to resuming where we left off in July on agriculture tariffs and subsidies”, he said.

Europe says it has more-than-budged on farm subsidies

Mr Mandelson said he rejected any suggestions that the agreement on the table in July was weak.

“By a long way, we have in the making the single most ambitious multilateral trade agreement ever negotiated. And one that pushes hard at the limits of the politically possible, in Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

While the preceding trade agreement, the Uruguay Round, had settled on an average farm tariff cut of 36%, the EU was already talking about the possibility of cutting farm tariffs by 50%.

Where the Uruguay Round allowed countries to protect farm products behind average cuts, Doha had already agreed to a system that would cut high tariffs most and in which every single product would be cut, without exceptions.

He would note that where the Uruguay Round agreed a 20% cut on trade distorting farm subsidies, in July the EU was ready to sign off on cuts of more than 70% and commit to the complete elimination of all such export subsidies by 2013.