United States President George W. Bush admitted that negotiations for a free trade zone embracing 34 countries of the hemisphere, Free Trade Area of the Americas, FTAA which was scheduled to begin functioning 2005/2006 are stalled.
President Bush’s admission comes hours before leaving for the two days Americas Summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, which begins next Friday. Following the summit the US president will visit Brazil and Panama.
"The FTAA has stalled, I agree" Mr Bush told reporters in Washington, acknowledging that disagreements between the US and other major nations in the Americas (mainly Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela) had derailed the original timetable.
However, he added that World Trade Organization (WTO) talks aimed at securing a new global free trade pact by the start of 2006 now had to take precedence over the FTAA.
"The Doha round really trumps the FTAA as a priority", he said "because the Doha round not only involves our neighborhood, it involves the whole world".
Mr Bush said he hoped that Brazil, which he described as "a very important player in Doha", would put pressure on the European Union to cut farm subsidies, which have been a major barrier for liberalizations of world trade.
United States has proposed drastic cuts to farm subsidies conditioned to other countries involved, (EU, Japan, and South Korea) adopting similar measures, but so far progress has been slow.
EU, US, Brazil, India and several other countries are currently involved in talks to draft a plan reducing agriculture subsidies and lowering tariffs with the purpose of achieving a basic understanding in the WTO meeting scheduled for December in Hong Kong.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), planned for this year, would have covered 800 million people with an annual 14 trillion GDP.
FTAA, which was intended to cover the whole hemisphere except Cuba, was originally put forward at the first Summit of the Americas in Miami in December 1994 by then President Bill Clinton.
Apparently the idea under consideration in Mar del Plata is to relaunch the FTAA negotiations in 2006.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.