Brazil, China, EU press US to step up in Doha negotiations
Brazil, China and the EU pressed the United States Wednesday to show greater engagement in WTO talks on a global free trade deal amid concerns the world's biggest economy is failing in its leading role.
"Many members have taken note that, in the Doha Round negotiations, particularly over the past two years, the US seems to have stepped back from its due leadership role," said Chinese ambassador Sun Zhenyu, during a review of Washington's trade policies at the World Trade Organization.
While the United States is asking developing countries to make more offers to clinch a deal, it has "failed to indicate how it might improve its own offer on issues of concern to developing countries," said Sun, echoing concerns from Brazil.
The European Union also urged the United States to step up on the issue, "including by making a further contribution of its own" in the negotiations and "by being realistic in what it seeks from others."
"The US has been at the forefront of those who have recognised the value of an open, rules-based international trading order," said John Clarke, who heads the EU delegation in Geneva.
"Recently, however, we see some signs that this commitment and willingness to lead by example may be dwindling. This is of great concern," he told the WTO meeting.
Beyond the Doha talks, Washington also came under fire over various trade policies, with China especially critical of its handling of the economy and the dollar.
"We are very much concerned about how the US would take practical and responsible measures to prevent the dollar glut and maintain the stability of the currency," Sun said.
Washington's agriculture policies were another sore point, with the WTO secretariat calling for cuts in farm subsidies, saying that support for the agriculture sector was so "considerable" that it could affect market prices.
In a report on Washington's policies since 2007, the trade body said that while promoting its exports, the United States should also reduce "distorting measures ... including ... support for agriculture."
The WTO noted that support under the multi-billion-dollar 2008 Farm Act is mostly "linked to prices and or production."
Thanks to this support, "producers of cereals, oilseeds, and cotton are effectively insulated from market prices while sugar and dairy have market price support programmes," the WTO said.
"The large size of the agriculture sector means that the absolute amount of support is considerable, varies from one year to another depending on prices, and can affect world prices," it added.
Brazil also hit out against US farm policies.
"Agriculture accounts for only 0.8 percent of US (economic output) and it employs just 1.4 percent of its labour force," noted Roberto Azevedo, Brazil's envoy to the WTO.
"Nevertheless, this sector displays a considerable arsenal of trade-restrictive and distorting measures."
Azevedo pointed out that most of the subsidies are concentrated on crops such as cotton soybeans and rice.
"When prices drop, those subsidies will be in place again precisely at the moment when they will provoke the largest distortions and most damage to producers elsewhere," he charged.
Washington's farm subsidies are a key sticking point holding up long-stalled Doha negotiations for a new global free trade deal.
© 2010 AFP