An EU offer to make concessions in WTO trade negotiations, notably
on agriculture, has received a warm welcome by members in developed
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has supported the EU's
proposal of 10 May to show flexibility on agricultural export
subsidies. Australia's trade minister Mark Vaile underlined that "A
clear commmitment to eliminate all export subsidies would be a
major improvement for the trading system".
On 10 May EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Farm
Commissioner Franz Fischler sent an open letter to their WTO
counterparts highlighting the EU's negotiating position in the
ongoing round of trade negotiations. The three points mentioned in
this letter are the EU's willingness to make concessions on
agricultural export subsidies if a balanced overall package on
agriculture can be reached and if trading partners follow suit. On
the so-called 'Singapore issues', the EU would begin negotiations
where there is an agreement to do so (at the moment only on trade
facilitation). No consensus is in sight yet on investment and
competition. The third point highlighted in the letter is a package
of concessions for the poorest WTO members.
Negotiations in the so-called 'Doha round' broke down at the
Cancún Ministerial meeting on 10-14 September 2003. The main
reasons largely cited for the failure are a lack of agreement on
agriculture and the EU's insistence for negotiations on the
Singapore issues to begin.
At a meeting on 29 April, WTO members have decided to aim for
agreements at a framework level in July in view of the upcoming US
presidential elections and changes in the European Commission in
November. In order to achieve this objective, a general agreement
would be necessary by the end of May to have an agreed text before
the WTO goes on summer break in August.
A mini meeting of some 30 trade ministers will be held on the
margins of the OECD Council meeting in Paris on 14 May. The WTO's
General Council meets on 17 May.