BRUSSELS, July 23: EU trade chief Peter Mandelson said on Monday that the 27-nation bloc had gained a “strong position” in WTO free-trade talks after new proposals were made last week to break six-years of deadlock.
“Diplomatically Europe is in a strong position,” Mandelson told EU foreign ministers, in remarks made available by his office to journalists. “We are seen as the main champions of this multilateral process.”
“What's interesting, at this stage, is that the EU is one of the least negatively talked about players, which is unusual, given how we were being targeted 18 months or so ago,” he said.The EU has long been criticised in WTO talks for not giving more ground on agriculture, but WTO negotiators made proposals last week focusing more on the need for concessions from the United States and developing countries.
The proposals tabled last week aimed at breathing new life into the Doha Development Round of trade liberalisation negotiations, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, and brokering a compromise among the 150 WTO members.
The members are at odds over the extent of new reductions in barriers to trade in agriculture, industrial goods and services amid cross-cutting disagreements between rich and poor countries over cuts in import tariffs and farm subsidies.
Mandelson said that Europe should keep up the pressure on developing countries to cut their tariffs on industrial goods although he acknowledged they were unlikely to do so unless Washington cut farm subsidies.
“We need to continue to push hard on industrial tariffs. There is no reason to assume that the landing point will not move further in our favour,” he said.
On the key stumbling block of agriculture tariffs, Mandelson said the proposals were “manageable” although they were too demanding on sensitive farm products.
WTO representatives are to meet this week in negotiating groups in Geneva, Switzerland, to give their initial reactions to the proposals. After an August recess, the talks are to resume in early September. —APP
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