Minister: little hope for world trade talks

There is little progress being made in the negotiations for a new agreement by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) currently taking place in Geneva, said junior economic affairs minister Frank Heemskerk on Friday.

Heemskerk, who is representing the Netherlands at the talks, told ANP news service that the best that could be said about the meeting between the 153 members of the WTO is that no one has walked out of the discussions.
The latest round of talks is intended to give developing countries better access to the markets of rich nations but have been deadlocked for several years. The current series of meetings started on Monday and are seen as a final attempt to reach agreement.
‘Europe is not the problem at these negotiations. I think Europe has made a very fair deal to poorer countries: we are phasing out export subsidies, we have removed 70% of agricultural subsidies and have reduced import charges by 60%,’ Heemskerk is quoted by ANP as saying.
He added that the US now needs to come up with a much better offer. Earlier this week America said it is willing to lower its agricultural subsidies but its proposal was dismissed by almost all member states as inadequate, reports ANP.
But Heemskerk said other countries such as Brazil and India must do more too. He called on these developing economies to open up their markets for services and industrial products. ‘They must realise that their newfound wealth means they are not only exporters but also importers,’ he told ANP.
Banking, transport and chemical products are areas which would benefit from the liberalisation of international markets, said Heemskerk.
At the start of Friday afternoon’s session, WTO chairman Pascal Lamy warned that the next 24 hours would be crucial if an agreement is to be reached, said ANP.

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