Agricultural Market Access Still a Hurdle for WTO
But obstacles erected at Cancun seem to be ''eroding,'' says USTR
PARIS, France - 05/18/04- Market access for agricultural products remains the biggest obstacle in current World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations despite progress made on other major issues during a trade ministers' meeting in Paris, says US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick (USTR).
However, the USTR said, he senses "movement from developing countries."
Zoellick made the comments at a press conference following last week's Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ministers' meeting in Paris.
According to negotiators, July represents a deadline of sorts for the WTO negotiations, even though they most likely cannot conclude by the original December deadline.
Agreement on a framework for further negotiations, particularly on agricultural issues, is viewed as crucial by July, before the distraction of the US general election and before the scheduled change in European Union (EU) commissioners.
Differences over agriculture have been blamed for stalling the negotiations, formally called the Doha Development Agenda, and then for causing the collapse of negotiations at the September 2003 WTO ministerial meeting in Canc?exico.
Those differences have begun to erode, however.
During the week of May 9, the European Union (EU) moved close to the US position on eliminating export subsidies by a certain deadline, one of the three major agricultural issues.
Zoellick said he believed there was basic agreement on the way to approach a second major issue, substantial reduction of domestic support.
That leaves the third major agricultural issue, market access, or tariffs and quotas.
The USTR said he welcomed proposals from the G-20 group of developing countries and from the Cairns Group of agriculture-exporting countries, groups that have objected to proposals offered by the US and EU.
"I am pleased that, over the past day, I have had a sense that both the G-20 and the Cairns Group countries will be looking to offer proposals before long so we can have a productive session in June when the agricultural experts meet again in Geneva," Zoellick said.
Resolution appeared to be near as well for another major obstacle, differences over the four so-called "Singapore Issues." Zoellick indicated that Japan was likely moving along with the EU to accept negotiations on just one of those issues - trade facilitation based on significant Customs reform.
The EU and Japan had long insisted on negotiations on the other three issues, as well: investment, competition policy, and transparency in government procurement.
"That's very important," the USTR said, for developing countries that opposed any Singapore Issues negotiations.
He also described the state of play in WTO negotiations on two other sectors of importance to the US, reducing tariffs on industrial goods and opening markets in services.
And he welcomed progress made by Russia on WTO accession in negotiations with the EU. Although the US still has some major issues with Russia, especially intellectual property piracy, he said, US-Russia accession negotiations could still finish in 2004.
"This is really a situation where it depends on Russia's movement, including on some domestic legislation," Zoellick said.
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
US Seeks Stronger Ties With Brazil
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/13/06 – Rebounding from the failure to craft a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, the Bush Administration is aiming at strengthening trade ties with Brazil in an effort to counter China’s fast-growing economic influence in Latin America; China should not only be seen as an export market with 1.3 billion consumers, but also as a nation of 1.3 billion ''new competitors,'' says US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guittierez.
US Threatens WTO Action Against China
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/10/06 – The White House is threatening to slap China with a World Trade Organization case unless Beijing responds quickly to US concerns over its lack of action on securing intellectual property rights for US products; talks on bringing the WTO case are at a ''very advanced stage,'' according to a high level official in the Office of the US trade Representative.
High Hopes for Central American Trade Pact
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/08/06 – The US -Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) still faces some hurdles, but could become a reality ''very soon,'' according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; the issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture still need to be worked through, says the former US Trade Representative following a session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.