WTO Hints Brazil and Friends Are Holding Hong Kong’s Meeting Hostage

The European trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said today, that everyone must leave Hong Kong with good news to take home.

"Everyone here must be able to go home saying, yes, we advanced in relation to the developing countries, but we also advanced in terms of our own interests. In relation to industrial goods, for example," Mandelson affirmed, on the second day of the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

According to the European representative, one of the obstacles the round of negotiations is facing is the lack of offers.

"There is little on the table. A round needs more than proposals for agriculture," he said, in an unveiled criticism of the demands presented by the developing countries, which will only admit negotiating lower tariffs for industrial goods if the European Union improves its offer on market access for agricultural goods.

The G20, the group of 21 developing countries led by Brazil and India, is demanding that Europe cut its agricultural tariffs 54%, but, in October, the Europeans said they were unwilling to reduce them more than 39%, and they have stuck to this position, besides insisting on excluding from the general rule practically all the products in which the developing countries are competitive.

Mandelson acknowledged that agriculture is an important part of the round, "but not the only one," and he reaffirmed that stimulating trade also involves access to markets for non-agricultural goods. "Unless we make progress in other areas, the whole negotiation will remain at a standstill," he warned.

The European commissioner supported the so-called development package, which is still under discussion, proposing unrestricted market access to products from the least developed countries, those with per capita incomes of less than US$ 750.

He pointed out, however, without mentioning names, that there are resistances and disagreements among some WTO members about total tariff and quota exemption for certain products.

Hong Kong 2

The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, believes that another meeting will be held to give continuity to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 6th Ministerial Conference, which is going on this week in Hong Kong.

The complementary meeting, which the Minister referred to as Hong Kong 2, should take place in April of next year. "We came expecting little, in the knowledge that the solutions will not come from here. But the lack of an agreement does not represent a total loss. A bad agreement would be a definite failure," he affirmed.

Agência Brasil

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