Trade talks ahead of the crucial World Trade Organization, WTO, Hong Kong December meeting have ended in stalemate with United States and the European Union representatives admitting pessimism about future advances in cutting trade barriers.
"I’m sorry to report we have not been able to make the progress I would have liked to have made," said US Trade Representative Rob Portman.
"We’ve been able to bridge some differences, but we have not been able to come up with the formulas and modalities for the Hong Kong meeting," added EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who conceded the talks had succeeded "not in narrowing differences but in defining them. The gap is significant."
With expectations low and lacking a framework agreement to reduce trade barriers as established in the WTO Doha Round, the December Hong Kong meeting could actually lead to another attempt sometime next March.
WTO talks in London and Geneva involving the "big five" United States, European Union, Japan, Brazil and India are aimed at achieving a global free trade understanding by early 2006 but agriculture and farm subsidies remain as a major hurdle.
"As far as the European Union is concerned, I feel that we have done everything we could reasonably be expected to do in agriculture to build bridges," said Peter Mandelson.
However Brazil and India argue that farm subsidies in rich countries depress world agriculture prices and prevent farmers in developing countries from advancing.
Developing countries have dismissed recent tariff cut proposals by the United States and the EU as "insufficient".
Furthermore G20 leader Brazil’s strategy both in the recent Americas Summit and the WTO talks has been that until the agriculture issue is not settled talks on other products and services will not advance.
EU representative Mandelson said he would like appropriate trade negotiations in other fields "similar to those which have began with agriculture".
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.