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WTO chief blames big players for no trade deal

Written by: Staff

NAIROBI, Apr 15: World Trade Organisation head Pascal Lamy said today the big players in four-year-old global trade talks were to blame for lack of a deal and called on African countries to put pressure on the heavyweights.

But with an April 30 deadline for a deal looming, the big players -- the United States, the European Union, Brazil, Japan and India -- blamed each other and turned to African ministers to press issues.

The WTO's 149 members are supposed to strike a deal on farm and industrial goods but there is little sign of a breakthrough in the so-called Doha round of talks that began in November 2001.

Lamy said the talks had made some progress since last year but called on the big players to make a greater effort.

''There remains a need for movement by the big players,'' Lamy told a conference of African Union trade ministers in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. ''It is not that what is on the table is nothing, but it is not sufficient to reach an agreement.'' He said the big players should offer what he termed ''real cuts'' in subsidies and tariffs.

The United States should accept big cuts in agricultural subsidies, the EU and Japan should make cuts in agricultural tariffs, and some emerging developing countries like Brazil and India should accept cuts in industrial tariffs.

''It is absolutely important that these heavyweights in the coming weeks and days ... help us make steps forward,'' said Lamy.

''We need figures. It is for you (African ministers) to push our friends to really help us get there.'' GENEVA MEETING Lamy said trade officials would meet next week in Geneva to assess progress and decide whether a ministerial meeting was needed.

The 53-member AU has played a crucial role in past WTO negotiations, showing greater solidarity to clinch promises on agricultural subsidies, a cotton accord and increased aid from developed countries.

Trade officials from the United States, the EU, Japan and Brazil took turns to highlight their close ties with Africa, and sought the support of African ministers.

Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia said Washington's proposals were very ambitious and that Africa stood to be the biggest loser if the talks failed.

''There has been a real trouble in getting some of our other partners to make similar ambitious proposals,'' said Bhatia.

''We need to come together to ensure that we don't lose the generation opportunity and we look to African ministers to join us to advance the Doha round negotiations.'' EU Trade Representative Karl Falkenberg said the 25-nation bloc had tabled strong proposals on agriculture.

''Europe will continue to defend your interest in these negotiations,'' he told the African ministers.


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