France applies brake to WTO re-negotiations

24th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

HONG KONG, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - France's foreign trade minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday that Paris expected a significant offer from its World Trade Organisation (WTO) partners in return for any EU concessions made on the key sticking point of farm subsidies and market access.

HONG KONG, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - France's foreign trade minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday that Paris expected a significant offer from its World Trade Organisation (WTO) partners in return for any EU concessions made on the key sticking point of farm subsidies and market access.

"Clearly, we don't think the Europeans should be making (fresh) proposals at this point unless there is a clear, significant and measurable counter (offer) on the other side," said Lagarde, in Hong Kong to attend the Vinexpo fair.

The minister was referring to EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who was due to announce later Wednesday that Brussels is prepared to go further in its WTO farm trade proposals provided others do the same.

"If the circumstances allow — that is if, and only if, key partners also put something worthwhile on the table — the EU will be prepared to enhance further its current agricultural offer," Mandelson said in a statement, outlining comments he will make Wednesday at an OECD ministerial meeting.

In the current trade liberalisation talks, launched in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001, the EU is "offering a lot," Mandelson said, adding: "We ... are prepared to go further still but we can not be the sole banker of this round."

The Doha talks are deadlocked largely on disagreements between the European Union and the United States on the pace at which agricultural export subsidies and other forms of official assistance to farmers are to be eliminated.

Lagarde reiterated that France, which has repeatedly taken a hard line on the farm trade issue and any perceived deviation Mandelson might take from it, expected him to stick to the EU's agreed position on farm trade.

"As far as the agricultural position is concerned, France is adamant that any overall offer should remain within the parameters and boundaries of the mandate that was given to the commissioner," Lagarde said, speaking in English.

She added that what was most important to France "is that any offer, any outcome should be balanced and ambitious — and balanced means balanced between agriproducts, industrial products and services".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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