Mandelson charges US hiding behind 'smokescreen' on cotton subsidies

Original Publication Date: 
15 December, 2005
LONDON (AFP) - The United States is hiding behind a "gigantic great smokescreen" in a bid to dodge its duty to cotton farmers in Africa, European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson charged at WTO talks that continue in Hong Kong.

During an interview with Channel Four television news broadcast late Thursday, Mandelson dismissed concessions from the United States designed to inject fresh momentum into the World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong.

The United States sought to move the stalled talks, voicing readiness to accept African cotton duty free, a gesture quickly dismissed as insufficient by its partners.

"Well, that is a negotiating ploy," Mandelson told Channel Four.

"It is a gigantic great smokescreen behind which they think they can dodge their responsibilities to cotton growers in Africa. And I don't think anyone in Hong Kong is going to be convinced by that," he said.

West African delegates in Hong Kong say their cotton farmers are being wiped out because US farm subsidies are depressing world cotton prices, and Mandelson warned those countries could walk out of the talks, causing them to fail.

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