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Onus is on Brazil at WTO talks- French Minister

Written by: Staff
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Washington, Apr 7: Brazil must show willingness to open its industrial markets at world trade talks in order to restart stalled negotiations on cutting farm subsidies and tariffs, French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said today.

''Clearly, the onus should not be on Europe at the moment. It should be on Brazil to demonstrate a willingness to some level of openness, which we haven't seen,'' Lagarde told an academic forum. ''We have been waiting for the last year for a teeny tiny bit of movement and we've not seen anything.'' Lagarde said that once Brazil moved, the European Union could discuss its position on opening its farm markets.

''When that time comes, then it will be for us Europeans together, 25 of us, to discuss, see what position we take.'' Members of the 149-nation World Trade Organization are feeling the heat from a self-imposed deadline of April 30 for agreement on formulas for reducing tariffs on agricultural and manufactured goods and cutting domestic farm subsidies, as a step to securing a wider deal lowering global commerce barriers.

The negotiations to dismantle protection for wealthy nations' farmers have made little progress and observers are skeptical that ministers will be able to meet the deadline, let alone conclude the broader pact by the end of the year.

Brazil's foreign ministry today said it had already made a goodwill gesture and shown willingness to open its market in an unofficial proposal it made in November last year. Brazil then had offered a reduction of 50 per cent on its average tariffs, a ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Brazil's maximum import tariff was 35 percent compared to over 200 per cent in the EU, he said.

At the time the United States, and not the EU, had shown interest in the Brazilian proposal, the spokesman added.

France's Lagarde was responding to comments by Michael Glos, Germany's economy minister, that he would encourage additional efforts by the EU for a WTO pact.

''I need to try and stimulate some more movement in Europe so we can reach the (WTO) agreement because agricultural subsidies and access to the European agricultural market plays a key role in this,'' Glos said yesterday.

''However, it is quite clear that Europe will move only if there are concessions from others on non-agricultural market access ... and then the EU can move in turn.'' The United States has offered to cut its WTO allowance for trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies by 60 per cent and slash its tariffs by 55 to 90 per cent. But the proposal is dependent on the likes of the European Union and Brazil offering significant access to their farm markets.

The EU, under pressure to agree to deeper cuts in its agricultural tariffs, has ruled out any possibility of that unless Brazil and other advanced developing countries make more generous offers to open their services and manufactured goods markets to more foreign trade.

Reuters

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