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Barshefsky Predicts Successful Outcome for WTO

23 November 1999

Barshefsky Predicts Successful Outcome for WTO Seattle Meeting

(Expects continued ban on taxing e-commerce transmissions) (440) By Bruce Odessey Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky says she expects trade ministers will overcome their disagreements and launch a new round of trade negotiations in Seattle.

She said she even expects the meeting to produce at least some immediate results for trade liberalization.

Barshefsky briefed reporters in Washington November 23 on the November 30-December 3 World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers meeting. She spoke just hours after negotiators in Geneva gave up trying to write a draft declaration ahead of the meeting.

The ministers themselves will now have to compose the declaration at their Seattle meeting.

Some foreign officials have suggested the differences to overcome are so great that the ministers might not be able to agree to launch a new trade round, but Barshefsky would have none of that.

"This is a negotiation," Barshefsky said. "It'll break down, and it'll resume. It'll break down, and it'll resume. I'm not in the least bit concerned."

She predicted that the ministers will adopt a declaration that will clearly set the range of issues for negotiations as well as benchmarks for progress, especially a firm deadline for submitting proposals.

As for immediate results, Barshefsky expressed confidence that the ministers will agree on extending the existing moratorium on taxing electronic commerce transmissions. Although the United States has pressed for a permanent moratorium, she said a temporary one is acceptable.

"From our point of view, whether it's a rollover or permanent makes little difference," she said. "The technology will take care of itself."

Barshefsky also held out hope that the Seattle meeting could yet achieve immediate agreement on making government procurement procedures more transparent and on adopting the eight-sector accelerated tariff liberalization (ATL) proposal submitted by the United States and other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries.

Even though Japan is an APEC member, it has so far resisted parts of the ATL for eliminating tariffs in forest and fish products. Environmental groups also oppose the forest product proposal.

Environmental and labor groups are expected to turn out in force in Seattle to protest the WTO meeting. Barshefsky said she sympathizes with the demonstrators' aims for making the WTO less secretive and using it to support higher labor and environmental standards.

"These are issues whose time has come. That's all," Barshefsky said. "The fact that they weren't in the system 50 years ago doesn't mean they shouldn't be in the system now."

ENDS

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