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News : International Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM


Doha Round Trade Talks: Progress stalls as China and India seek concessions on protecting farmers from rising imports
By Finfacts Team
Jul 29, 2008 - 4:39:58 AM

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Pascal Lamy, WTO Director General

At the Doha Round Trade Talks in Geneva on Monday, progress stalled as the developed world representatives clashed with their counterparts from emerging markets, led by China and India, over measures permitting developing countries to protect farmers from rising imports.

After 12 hours of talks, Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organisation (WTO) spokesman, said: “The situation is very tense, things are finely ­balanced and the outcome is by no means certain.”

The US clashed with China and India and the French government criticised Peter Mandelson, European Union Trade Commissioner who has a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the European Union.

China is arguing for last-minute concessions, including the right to shield important farm products from competition and to delay cutting some of its tariffs for years.

In 2005, Peter Mandelson said that 70% of the tariffs collected by developing countries are paid by other developing countries.

“We are very much concerned about the direction that a couple of countries are taking,” the United States Trade Representative, Susan C. Schwab, said.“I am very concerned it will jeopardize the outcome of this round.”

Meanwhile, the French government said that the outline deal being discussed was not acceptable and said 11 of 27 EU member states shared its reservations.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is unhappy that China and other emerging markets are not committed to liberalising entire industrial sectors, and is frustrated at a lack of progress in extending legal protection to geographical names for foods such as Parma ham.

Mandelson said that talks at the meeting, which on Monday entered their eighth day, were at a “difficult and complicated” stage but that the will to succeed remained. Officials said that while the divisions were serious, it was unclear whether the disputes were simply last-minute jockeying ahead of a final deal.

President Sarkozy, who is the current head of the European Council, on Sunday demanded an immediate meeting with Peter Mandelson. The latter's spokesman Irishman Peter Power, said that the commissioner would be happy to meet Sarkozy but that his negotiating commitments had to come first.

Also on Monday, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel warned that the Irish Farmer's Association use of "spin" was putting future co-operation between the IFA and her office in jeopardy.

"They are still claiming that Brazil will have the right to export 1.8 million tonnes of beef into Europe. That is simply bad faith and they know it and it's not correct and these figures are totally misleading," said Boel.

"I must say I am very unhappy to see that the good co-operation we have had until now is jeopardised by figures like this."

Deming Chen, China’s Minister of Commerce, strides into the WTO in Geneva

Irish politicians are running scared of the IFA and no politician has challenged the scaremongering on job losses or defended the interests of the exporters of manufactured goods and services, which represent 97% of total exports from Ireland.

SEE Finfacts' Analysis: Doha Trade Round - Irish Farmers and Sacred Cows

The core seven negotiating partners in Geneva are: Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, India, the US and the EU.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told WTO members that talks over the past few days have produced “a very high level of convergence on many issues.”

WTO Monday's Summary on progress in Agriculture and Non-Agricultural Market Access

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