US says Doha round trade talks at risk

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GENEVA, Oct 9 (Reuters) The United States said today the long-running Doha round of global trade talks was at risk after a group of developing countries insisted they should get favourable treatment in the negotiations.

Washington has been expressing frustration for several weeks at the progress of the talks, launched six years ago to boost the world economy by opening up trade. That frustration boiled over today.

''We are very concerned about this proposal that came out today,'' Sean Spicer, a spokesman for US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, said in a statement. ''In fact, this proposal could signal the end of the Doha Round.'' The Doha round negotiations have focused since July on agriculture and industry, on the basis of papers issued for each area by WTO mediators.

A deal would include the United States cutting its trade-distorting farm subsidies, other rich countries such as European Union members reducing their tariffs on farm goods, and developing countries opening up their markets to industrial goods from rich countries by cutting tariffs.

Washington has agreed to cap its subsidies in line with the agriculture text, as long as other WTO members accept the ranges for tariffs and subsidies in both the texts.

But while there has been progress among the WTO's 151 members in the agriculture talks, many developing countries say the industry proposal is unfair to them.

For instance it would involve them in making bigger cuts in the ceilings on industrial tariffs than developed countries, contradicting the principle of ''less than full reciprocity'' which is part of the negotiating mandate for the talks.

''Less than full reciprocity'' means developing countries ought to make fewer concessions than rich countries do in the Doha round, which is intended to help developing countries grow out of poverty by increasing trade opportunities for them.

Earlier South Africa, on behalf of a group of major developing countries known as the NAMA-11 that includes Brazil, India and Argentina, made a statement to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) general council underlining their position on the trade talks, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told a briefing.

The head of South Africa's WTO delegation, Faizel Ismail, told the council agriculture was central to the talks and the deal on industry had to reflect ''less than full reciprocity''. He also discussed other special treatment for developing countries.

''They're basically walking away,'' Spicer told Reuters. ''You can't expect a successful outcome if you keep moving backwards.'' Reuters TB VP0102

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