Skip to comments.US presses EU for more farm tariff cuts
Posted on 10/14/2005 7:09:44 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
The US turned up pressure on the European Union yesterday to go further in cutting farm tariffs, saying its latest proposal fell far short of what was needed for World Trade Organisation talks to succeed.
Rob Portman, the US trade representative, expressed disappointment that the EU and others had not maintained the negotiating momentum generated by Washington's offer this week of deep cuts in domestic agricultural supports, by coming up with ambitious tariff-cutting proposals.
"I'm disappointed there have been no significant moves on farm market access," he said after three days of talks between trade ministers in Zurich and Geneva.
However, Mr Portman and his counterparts from the EU, Brazil, India and Australia - a five-strong core group that has been in the vanguard of the WTO negotiations - plan to meet again in Geneva next week in another effort to push the Doha round of talks forward.
Late on Tuesday the EU put forward an amended agricultural market access offer that would provide less flexibility in cutting tariffs but envisages a maximum reduction of 50 per cent for very high tariffs compared with 90 per cent proposed by the US. The percentage of so-called sensitive products, subject to smaller tariff reductions, would be cut under the EU proposal from 10 to8per cent of tariff lines, against the US proposal of 1 per cent. This would still leave 180 EU products treated as "sensitive".
Mr Portman said yesterday that the EU proposal "doesn't come close to meeting the expectations all of us have on market access". According to US calculations it would result in an average cut in EU farm tariffs of 24.5 per cent, less than the 36 per cent average agreed in the 1986-93 Uruguay round.
Mark Vaile, the Australian trade minister, said: "The US offer on domestic subsidies has thrown a challenge at the feet of the EU to come forward with a much more ambitious proposal on market access."
The Group of 10 countries with highly protected farm sectors, which includes Switzerland, Norway, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, also put forward a market access proposal this week, but this is less ambitious than the EU's.
Joseph Deiss, Switzerland's economy minister, said that while G10 members were prepared to make concessions on farm subsidies, the depth of tariff cuts envisaged by the US would "wipe agriculture out of our landscapes".
The WTO's 148 members meet today to take stock of the Doha negotiations, two months before the ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December, which is due to approve a blueprint for concluding the talks.
Additional reporting by Alan Beattie in London
I'ld be happy to see the tarriffs reduce every year. Our food (in the UK) would get cheaper and cheaper, and the farmers have got time to react.
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