Surprise US bid for trade deal wins applause
Washington drew praise yesterday for an unexpected bid to breathe life into struggling free trade talks, but risked tensions with Brussels over a call to end controversial farm export subsidies.
The negotiations, whose success the World Bank says would give a huge boost to the global economy, have floundered since September when a WTO ministers' meeting collapsed, partly due to deep divisions over agriculture.
Trade officials and analysts had feared that with nobody ready to make concessions and many nations, not just the United States, facing elections or busy negotiating bilateral trade deals, there was little chance of progress at the WTO this year.
But in letters to the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) 146 member states and senior trade officials, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick made it clear he did not want 2004 to be a 'lost year'. "This is clearly positive and somewhat unexpected," said former Canadian trade envoy John Weekes of Geneva-based law firm Sidley, Austin, Brown and Wood.
But in a potential blow to Washington's negotiating alliance with the EU, Mr Zoellick said talks would go nowhere without a deal to end farm export subsidies, something the EU has resisted.