Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Australia slams EU for trade talks fiasco

  • The Doha round began in 2001 aimed at relieving the poverty of millions - farm subsidies have been the main stalling point along the way (Photo: Commission)

Australia has slammed the EU for playing a major role in the collapse last month of international talks on liberalising world trade.

"Why are the negotiations stuck? The simple but familiar answer is that rich WTO Members do not want to substantially open their agricultural markets," said trade minister Mark Vaile on Thursday according to Today Online.

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"The European Union's offer to cut agricultural tariffs by 51 percent might sound reasonable, but its tariffs are so high that it would make very little difference. Carve-outs for sensitive products would have weakened the result further," he continued.

WTO talks ended in acrimony late in July after the main blocs in the round failed to agree compromise packages on reducing protectionism in agriculture that could have prolonged negotiations.

The failure led to public recriminations - the EU was the most vocal in blaming the US for stalling the talks - with several countries suggesting that the so-called Doha round could take years to be revived.

"The bottom line is that we will only reach a consensus when we have an outcome that delivers substantial new trade opportunities," said Mr Vaile who is in September organising a meeting of the 18-member Cairns Group focussed on breathing life back into the WTO talks.

EU rejects Australia offer

But although the EU has been invited to attend the meeting as well, Reuters reports that both farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel and trade commission Peter Mandelson have already turned down the offer.

"To be honest, I do not expect to see such an opportunity [for a resumption of talks] in the near future", Mrs Fischer-Boel is quoted as saying.

Referring to the US, which last month refused to put further concessions on the table arguing that both the EU and developing countries were not giving it enough incentives to do so, the farm commissioner said "I am afraid to say that, for some of our trade partners, 'ambition' was strictly a one-way street."

"They understood ambition only in terms of demanding concessions from others, not offering them", she said.

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