EC, US Enter Final Lap of Trade Talks
AMERICAN and European trade negotiators yesterday sought to conclude a pact needed to free up stalled world trade talks amid noisy and sometimes violent demonstrations by farmers in both Europe and Asia.
Sir Leon Brittan, the European Community's chief trade negotiator, met in Paris for talks with French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur. He will be accompanied by Peter Sutherland, chief of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
In Geneva, meanwhile, technical negotiations took place over the weekend in advance of a crucial meeting in Brussels today between Mr. Brittan and United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor.
The EC and US were seeking common ground on a bilateral trade pact that is universally viewed as essential if the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations is to be completed successfully by Dec. 15.
The round, conducted by GATT, seeks to liberalize world trade in sectors ranging from financial services to agriculture.
Last Thursday, Brittan and Mr. Kantor completed a series of meetings, saying they hoped a final US-EC pact could be reached Monday.
Although it is not the only controversial issue facing the negotiators, agriculture has been at the center of the debate, with France vehemently opposed to a US-EC accord to cut subsidised farm exports. French government officials have been tentative about the likelihood of an agreement, finding progress toward GATT positive but being disappointed about not getting everything Paris wanted.
``Its [the agreement's] bases do not cover all our objectives, but they put us say 50 percent of the way to a global agreement. We were starting from zero a few days ago,'' said French Industry Minister Gerard Languet in a published interview yesterday.
Farmers, meanwhile, are expressing their displeasure at the prospect of fewer subsidies and more open markets. Several hundred of them, along with Swiss and other farmers, fought with police outside the headquarters of GATT on Saturday in protest at the likely agreement.
South Korean farmers also staged angry protests as Seoul abandoned its bid to shield its rice market from foreign imports.