US blames France for breakdown of WTO talks

26th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, July 25, 2006 (AFP) - The United States accused France Tuesday of causing the collapse of global trade talks because its stance on farm issues had prevented the European Union from making key concessions to trade partners.

GENEVA, July 25, 2006 (AFP) - The United States accused France Tuesday of causing the collapse of global trade talks because its stance on farm issues had prevented the European Union from making key concessions to trade partners.

In a statement, the US embassy in Geneva rejected remarks by EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, who said Monday that Washington was responsible for the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) failure to reach agreement because it had refused to reduce subsidies to farmers in the United States.

According to the embassy, the "statement by the European Union alleging that the United States failed to show flexibility in the Doha agriculture negotiations and attempting to divert blame for the stalemate is false and misleading.

"Unable to endorse the US proposal given substantial opposition from France and a few other member states with strong farm interests, the EU attempted, alternately, to criticize the US proposal as too ambitious or too weak."

Referring to a European trade minister who had been quoted by the Financial Times, the statement repeated that "the fear from French farmers is stronger than the ambitions of European retailers."

On Monday, WTO chief Pascal Lamy recommended that the Doha round of trade talks be suspended after six key trading powers, including the EU and United States, were unable to bridge fundamental differences on agricultural aid, import tariffs and market access.

Deadlock had gripped the Doha Round almost since its launch in Qatar in 2001 in an effort to reduce barriers such as subsidies and customs duties, and improve the lot of developing nations.

France is the biggest beneficiary of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and has steadfastly refused that Brussels, which negotiates at the WTO on behalf of all 25 EU members, give any ground on reducing import tariffs unless the United States and other trade partners also made concessions.

France says its position is supported by around 15 EU members.

Mandelson said that the United States had requested the talks be suspended on Monday, but according to the US embassy, the EU had taken its offer off the table, at which point "the United States reluctantly had to agree with (WTO) Director-General Lamy's assessment that the differences among G-6 members remained unbridgeable."

The embassy said the EU had insisted "on the right to lavish more than twice as much trade distorting subsidies on its farmers."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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