Trade envoy echos pessimism at WTO talks

30th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 30, 2006 (AFP) - French junior trade minister Christine Lagarde said Friday she was pessimistic about the chances of reaching agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks this week in Geneva.

PARIS, June 30, 2006 (AFP) - French junior trade minister Christine Lagarde said Friday she was pessimistic about the chances of reaching agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks this week in Geneva.

"This morning we are all rather pessimistic," Lagarde told LCI news television.

Using football metaphors, Lagarde said: "The Europeans are on the field," and were "waiting for balls and looking to play."

Emerging countries such as Brazil "are playing squarely on defense" while the United States "is totally out of the game."

"We are worried about positions on overtures being considered by the (EU) trade commissioner Peter Mandelson," she added.

Mandelson had said Thursday that the European Union's position was not entrenched and that the 25-nation EU and was willing to approach that of the G20 group of emerging countries.

His spokesman Peter Power nonetheless said later Thursday: "It is extremely unlikely to have an agreement this weekend."

Talks were still scheduled to go ahead on Friday in an effort to break the enduring deadlock over the mathematics for cutting trade barriers such as subsidies and customs duties.

The WTO gathering is part of a timetable agreed at a conference in Hong Kong last year, which was meant to steer the Doha Round to a conclusion by December 2006.

The round, which aims to harness trade liberalisation to boost the economies of developing countries, was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 and was originally meant to end in 2004.

On Thursday, Power told AFP: "The positions are too far apart in the G6," in reference to a grouping of WTO heavyweights, the EU, Australia, Brazil, Japan, India and the United States.

Top officials from the G6 had gathered Thursday evening ahead of wider talks expected to last several days at the Geneva base of the 149-nation WTO.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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