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Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 10 News List

EU says `no' to further agricultural trade concessions


The EU will make no more concessions on agricultural subsidies, and insisted again yesterday that it was up to the US to rescue the troubled world-trade talks by matching EU offers of farm spending cuts.

Austrian Agriculture Minister Josef Proell, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the Europeans have made their spending cut offers in world-trade talks, "and it would be wrong to make a new offer."

While his comment took aim at Washington, it also was a note of caution to Peter Mandelson, the EU top trade negotiator, not to be seduced by Europe's trade partners into making further concessions in agricultural trade.

Mandelson, of Britain, scared some EU governments this month by signaling a willingness to deepen an EU offer for lower farm tariffs.

Mandelson's office has since said he still rejects a 54 percent demanded by a group of 20 developing nations.

The EU has offered a 46 percent cut, which its trade partners reject as insufficient.

Speaking at the outset of a two-day EU agriculture ministers meeting, Proell told reporters that Europe's trade "partners, especially the United States, do not move at all" to get the WTO talks moving.

An important April 30 deadline in the current round of world trade talks has been missed amid the trans-Atlantic recriminations, which continue unabated.

Proell said "the United States should make a move," adding -- likely for Mandelson's benefit -- that the 25 EU nations "speak with one voice on that."

In the trade talks, the EU has accused the US and developing nations of using Europe as a scapegoat for difficulties in completing the 149-nation WTO trade talks.

The so-called Doha round is two years behind schedule, and talks are at an impasse, with developing countries demanding that rich nations do more to open up their farm markets.

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