France hampering progress on WTO talks: US

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 26 (AFP) - The Bush administration's senior trade negotiator has accused French President Jacques Chirac of hampering efforts to reach a global free trade accord as the WTO mounts yet another bid to salvage the Doha round of negotiations.

PARIS, July 26 (AFP) - The Bush administration's senior trade negotiator has accused French President Jacques Chirac of hampering efforts to reach a global free trade accord as the WTO mounts yet another bid to salvage the Doha round of negotiations.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, in comments appearing on the front page of the Financial Times Monday, took issue with Chirac's rejection last week of a draft negotiating framework to be discussed by World Trade Organisation delegates in Geneva starting Tuesday.

The Geneva talks are seen as critical to the future of a negotiating process launched by the WTO in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001 and scheduled to conclude by the end of the year.

Momentum toward reducing trade barriers has ground to a near-halt and Zoellick warned that if the talks founder this week the Doha round could be doomed.

The French president last week described the proposed program for reviving the process as "unacceptable" in its present form and was profoundly detrimental to the interests of the European Union, notably on the question of farm subsidies.

Zoellick told the Financial Times that such remarks, suggesting that France might not agree to lower its agricultural export subsidies, could discourage other participants from making concessions necessary for an agreement.

"What I pick up ... (is that) there is a lot of sensitivity about the EU. The Chirac comments lead people to wonder what is going to happen.

"The fact that Chirac has been so public will lead everybody to look closely at how they handle the sensitive compromises we are going to have to come to in other areas," Zoellick said.

Chirac said France objected to the current WTO document because it lacked balance, notably by requiring the EU to eliminate agricultural export subsidies while making easier demands on other governments that offer support to their farmers.

France, a major recipient of EU farm aid, has insisted that the United States scrap or eliminate agricultural export credits and credit guarantees.

In its current form the WTO draft work program stipulates that future Doha round negotiations should cover the elimination of the "trade distorting element of export credits and export credit guarantees by reducing the repayment period" to 180 days.

US government credits currently offered to farmers who want to export their produce carry a three-year repayment deadline.

The long-standing agriculture dispute is looming large at the Geneva talks, where failure, Zoellick said, would raise "a serious question about when or how or if one would be able to get the Doha negotiations revived."

© AFP

Subject: French news

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