US and EU Must Cut Their Own Flesh, Brazil Argues at WTO Meeting

The ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva this weekend was unable to break the deadlock over the key issue at stake, from the Brazilian viewpoint: agricultural trade liberalization, as laid out in the Doha Round blueprint.

Since the start of the meeting on Friday, June 30, the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, declared several times that he failed to observe "any significant progress" in the negotiations.

Brazil wants a commitment on the part of the United States and the European Union to reduce export incentives and domestic farm subsidies.

"The European Union is getting closer to our position. But we still haven’t reached the point of negotiation," Amorim commented in a press conference reproduced on the WTO website.

In the chancellor’s view, Europe must spell out the details of its proposal to lower agricultural duties by up to 51%, as well as informing whether the products that are of interest to Brazil will be included in the cuts or treated as exceptions.

The European proposal also depends upon a positive gesture by the United States, and so far there has been no such indication. The European Union and the members of the G20, a group formed by 20 developing countries, call on the United States to lower its annual level of farm subsidies to US$ 12 billion. The US negotiators refuse to accept this demand.

The G20, which is led by Brazil, insists on greater sacrifices by the rich countries to enact the Doha agenda, which is aimed at the development of less industrialized countries.

"It is not up to the developing countries to take the lead in this process," Amorim argued.

In order for agricultural products from developing countries to be able to compete and penetrate other markets, the G20 considers it crucial for the rich countries to do away with subsidies. The group presented a timetable in which such incentives are frozen and substantially reduced by 2010 and completely eliminated in 2013.

Anticipating the stalemate at this weekend’s meeting, Brazil has already proposed that political leaders place the matter on the agenda of the meeting of the G8 (the seven wealthiest countries and Russia) scheduled for this month in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Developing countries, including Brazil, have been invited to attend the meeting as guests.

ABr

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