France's foreign trade minister Christine Lagarde said yesterday that Paris expected a significant offer from its WTO partners in return for any EU concessions made on the key sticking point of farm subsidies and market access.
"Clearly, we don't think the Europeans should be making [fresh] proposals at this point unless there is a clear, significant and measurable counter [offer] on the other side," said Lagarde, in Hong Kong to attend the Vinexpo fair.
The minister was referring to EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who was scheduled to announce later yesterday that Brussels was prepared to go further in its WTO farm trade proposals provided that others do the same.
"If the circumstances allow -- that is if, and only if, key partners also put something worthwhile on the table -- the EU will be prepared to enhance further its current agricultural offer," Mandelson said in a statement, outlining comments he was to make yesterday at an OECD ministerial meeting.
In the current trade liberalization talks, launched in the Qatari capital of Doha in 2001, the EU is "offering a lot," Mandelson said.
"We ... are prepared to go further still but we can not be the sole banker of this round," he added.
Lagarde reiterated that France, which has repeatedly taken a hard line on the farm trade issue and any perceived deviation Mandelson might take from it, expected him to stick to the EU's agreed position on farm trade.