EU leaders push ahead for bilateral deals with China and Korea while Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson keeps up the fight for a multilateral trade pact.
Although leaders pledged to work together to bring multilateral negotiations on trade liberalisation back on track, they also announced that they had agreed to initiate exploratory talks with Korea on a free-trade agreement and to negotiate a new Partnership and Cooperation agreement with China aimed at deepening economic and trade relations.
These announcements follow an apparent shift – from multilateral to bilateral – in the EU’s trade strategy since the collapse of the Doha Development Round.
Meanwhile, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson attempted to show his continued commitment to multilateral talks by going to Rio to meet with WTO chief Pascal Lamy, as well as with leaders from Brazil, US and other developing nations, to discuss how to deal with the failure of negotiations.
After the conference, Mandelson said: “This meeting has given a very clear ‘Yes’ as to whether these talks should resume.”
He stressed that an agreement must be reached before the US starts to discuss a new agricultural law in 2007, and that the period between the US mid-term elections in November 2006 and March 2007 is therefore crucial if a deal is to be reached.