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Trade talks in trouble as

Friday October 21, 2005

Trade talks in trouble as French limit Europe's scope

Renewed deadlock in world trade talks due to lack of movement by the EU could scupper the chances of a deal being done by the end of the year and signal continued suffering for millions of poor farmers, said international agency Oxfam today.

Under pressure from certain member states, especially France, the EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson failed to offer further concessions on agricultural reform at talks in Geneva this week, which ended without progress today.

Oxfam warned that such obstinacy from the EU and the resultant standoff between major trading powers would ultimately harm developing countries.

"It beggars belief that, despite repeated promises of agricultural reform by the EU, the French and other EU member states are now fighting this rearguard action to undermine even the minimal progress made," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

Oxfam said that although the EU was responsible for the impasse this week, the United States as the other “subsidy superpower” also had to offer deeper cuts to its farm subsidies. Both blocs also needed to give better acknowledgement to the development needs of poor countries, particularly in the areas of promoting rural development, ensuring food security and protecting fledgling industries from being shut down by a flood of imports.

Coates: "New Zealand’s interests lie squarely with those of poor countries in relation to achieving genuine reduction of trade-distorting farm subsidies by the EU and US. New Zealand must change its tactics and start lending greater support to poor countries’ efforts to get fair treatment in other areas of equal importance to them, if these talks are to have any chance of a successful outcome.”

Oxfam also warned that the EU’s failure to move could give the US the excuse to dilute concessions already made: "It would be tragic if the EU gave the US an excuse to backtrack.

The US is talking as if it has conceded a lot compared with Europe this week but the reality is that neither bloc has yet made a proposal that truly serves the interests of the poor. The offers already made are far from good enough. They must not be weakened further," said Coates.

The G20 group of developing countries joined the US in pushing the EU to offer more on market access, but Oxfam warned that developing countries must hold out for a deal that guaranteed them flexibility and did not demand too great a level of reciprocity.


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