THE ASSOCIATED PRESS October 9, 2007, 2:49PM ET
US criticizes countries during WTO talks
By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER
The United States slammed Brazil, India and South Africa on Tuesday
for refusing to open up their manufacturing markets in World Trade
Organization talks, despite recent concessions by Washington on the
sensitive topic of farm subsidies.
The European Union also criticized prominent developing countries for
avoiding a "reasonable" compromise on slashing industrial tariffs at
an important juncture in the six-year WTO round to liberalize world
"This could be the beginning of the end of the round," said Sean
Spicer, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab. "This
is a gigantic step backward. Are they trying to find a successful
outcome or are they trying to light a fuse to blow up this round?"
Spicer spoke to The Associated Press from Washington shortly after a
meeting of the WTO's general council concluded in Geneva. There, a
large of group of developing countries also including Argentina,
Indonesia, Philippines and Venezuela told the 151-member body that it
was seeking new exceptions for the manufacturing products that make
up the vast majority of goods traded internationally.
Peter Power, spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson,
said "alternative papers are not needed" because the WTO's lead
industrial negotiator Don Stephenson of Canada has already issued a
Spicer said the statement from developing countries was "extremely
disappointing." The United States last month indicated its acceptance
of a WTO proposal to limit its trade-distorting farm subsidies to a
range between US$13 billion and US$16.4 billion and has since been
exerting pressure on Brazil, India and South Africa to lead poorer
nations toward a similar pledge to free up trade in manufacturing goods.
"You can continue to see an attempt to wiggle out of serious
commitment," Spicer said, referring to the unwillingness of the three
regional powers to accept Stephenson's proposal to cut tariffs on
their most protected manufactured goods to a level between 19 and 23
percent. "They talk a good game but continue to put little on the
The global trade talks known as the Doha round aim to add billions of
dollars (euros) to the world economy and lift millions of people out
of poverty through free trade. But they have repeatedly stalled since
their inception in Qatar's capital in 2001, largely because of
wrangling between rich and poor nations over eliminating barriers to
farm trade and, more recently, manufacturing trade.
The United States has been under considerable pressure to limit
payments to American farmers of major crops such as corn, cotton,
rice, soybean and wheat. Critics of the subsidies say they drive down
prices, making it impossible for small farms to compete in
international markets and more difficult for poorer countries to
develop their economies by selling agricultural produce abroad.
But Washington's move last month has shifted some of the pressure to
the countries that have resisted calls to make industrial
concessions. The statement Tuesday by developing countries said that
reducing farm tariffs and subsidies is "critical for establishing a
fair and equitable global trading regime," and indicated that
manufacturing cuts should come later.
"One size doesn't fit all," said Ambassador Oscar Carvallo of
Venezuela, one of about 90 countries to sign the paper. "That's the
majority of the membership. We need rules that accommodate the real
concerns that members have. That's the only way to get the agreement
Part of the reason the Doha round has sparked such fierce and
prolonged debates is that the final treaty must be agreed by
consensus and will be legally binding on all countries. The new WTO
proposals, by Stephenson and chief farm trade negotiator Crawford
Falconer, were released in July in an attempt to force countries into
Washington conceded ground on farm subsidies on condition that other
countries accept Falconer's plan for cutting tariffs on farm
products. For the EU, for example, that would mean a reduction of its
highest farm tariffs by 66 percent to 73 percent, something Brussels
has said it can accept.