EU trade chief impatient on Doha, Southeast Asia deal

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SINGAPORE, Nov 22 (Reuters) The European Union's trade chief said on Thursday he was impatient with the lack of progress towards free trade deals in the global Doha round and between the EU and Southeast Asia.

The Doha round of talks, launched six years ago, has been deadlocked as the United States and European Union call on developing nations to open up their markets for manufacturers in return for cuts by rich countries to trade-distorting subsidies.

''I am becoming impatient. We need further revised negotiating texts, we need more to come together rather than holding out for every last dollar that they can take off the table for themselves,'' the EU's Peter Mandelson told reporters on the sidelines of an ASEAN-EU summit.

Top U.S. trade negotiator Susan Schwab said in Singapore this week that a deal was still possible before the next U.S.

election in 2008, although she said Washington was not comfortable with some proposals already on the table.

''It's no use just looking to the wealthy nations to do all the heavy giving,'' Mandelson said.''Everyone who is able needs to put into this round so that we can get it negotiated. We are already getting less from this round than we hoped for.'' Developing nations say these proposals are not in the spirit of Doha's development mandate because they require poor countries to cut industrial tariffs more than rich countries would do. Recent Chinese complaints have also added to doubts over a deal.

''I do think a certain fatigue is setting in, and that's why I think it would be very dangerous if we delay the negotiation processes. We have to complete this round next year -- I think it is very important to get this deal done while President Bush is in the White House,'' Mandelson said.

He said otherwise negotiations would not be revived until 2010. ''What we have on the table will by then have turned mush.

It is going to be much more difficult.'' SLOW SOUTHEAST ASIA Mandelson said he was also concerned about slow negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Leaders from both sides said on Thursday they would push for a faster deal, but could give no timetable.

''I am concerned about the time it is taking. We need to quicken our pace. We need to put in a little bit more drive into these negotiations,'' Mandelson said. ''I have two concerns.

One is the ... level of ambition.'' A deal with the whole Southeast Asian bloc may be held up by ASEAN member Myanmar, which has overshadowed this week's summits in Singapore after its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The EU adopted sanctions on Myanmar this week.

But Mandelson said banking secrecy laws in Singapore, one of Myanmar's biggest investors and accused of acting as banker to its military rulers, were not an issue for a deal.

''The bank secrecy law is not a stumbling block,'' he said.

''The integrity and governance of financial services systems in Singapore are sound.'' Mandelson is heading next, together with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, to China, to discuss what they both described as an ''unsustainable'' EU-China trade deficit.


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