Global Trade Talks Could Resume by July
Trade facilitation, agriculture key issues, says USTR Zoellick
WASHINGTON, DC - 04/30/04 - A completed framework for a resumption of global trade talks could be achieved by July, said US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick (USTR).
Testifying before the House of Representatives' Agriculture Committee, Zoellick said the re-start of negotiations depends on continued progress on the issue of trade facilitation and on agreement of a draft document related to agricultural trade.
Zoellick said other issues that some developing countries had been holding as conditional for furthering trade talks - the so-called "Singapore Issues" - should not be used to continue to delay negotiations.
The focus of the negotiation framework should "solely" be trade facilitation, Zoellick said.
The other Singapore Issues relate to investment, competition and transparency in government procurement.
Progress on agriculture trade reform will require all members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to agree to eliminate export subsidies, including export credits, end state-trading monopolies and "discipline food aid in a way that still permits countries to meet vital humanitarian needs," Zoellick said.
Zoellick said during visits to several countries earlier in 2004 he had emphasized the continued US commitment to its 2002 proposal that all WTO members eliminate export farm subsidies by a certain date.
The US is also proposing that all WTO members decrease and harmonize trade-distorting domestic supports and that both developed and developing countries increase market access for agricultural products.
Zoellick said these messages were recently reiterated by Chief US Agricultural Negotiator Allen Johnson in discussions with 70 WTO members in Geneva.
Those discussions, he said, "were aimed at fostering a more focused and cooperative environment on the "core issues."
The current round of WTO negotiations, which began in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, stalled in September 2003.
On another topic, Zoellick said during questioning that the US would challenge a ruling by the WTO against US cotton subsidies. A final ruling on a dispute over cotton subsidies brought by Brazil is expected to come in mid-June, Zoellick said.
Additionally, the US is still considering whether to file another objection in the WTO to new regulations in the European Union (EU) on the labeling of agriculture products derived from biotechnology, he said.
On the issue of counties' exclusive use of geographic locations for marketing agricultural products, Zoellick said the US "doesn't want such geographic indicators to become a new device for protectionism."
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