Mandelson considers Geneva summary document on services 'particularly disappointing'

Original Publication Date: 
24 November, 2005

Brussels, 25/11/2005 (Agence Europe) - European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said on Thursday that "almost all" of the summary documents drawn up by the WTO negotiating committees on each of the chapters discussed and published this week were "unsatisfactory" and the one on services "particularly disappointing". "We need targets in the area of services as in agriculture and non-agricultural market access, or we will get nowhere", he said in a press release. The reports from the chairmen of the various negotiating committees must serve as a base for the Hong Kong "blueprint" that WTO Director General Pascal Lamy can forward to the 148 member nations from Monday on.

In an article published on 23 November by the Swiss daily, Le Temps, the Trade Commissioner again criticised the "tactics used by some partners" which have "made us short of time". The finger of blame is mainly pointed at the United States which took more than one year to respond to the European offer made in May 2004 to abolish export subsidies. The US offer was serious but incomplete, Mr Mandelson said. The Commissioner also slams the key agricultural exporters, with Brazil in the lead for having gone further and further in the agricultural sector to the detriment of the other sectors. Mandelson said they raised expectations on access to the farm market to unattainable levels and, for now, our main discussion partners have not put any offer on the table for industrial goods that can in any way equal the demands in agriculture, and the level of proposals for services is still worse. The Commissioner went on to conclude that "the question our partners ask themselves is: what will they obtain if, through their disproportionate demands, they push talks to the point of breaking? The answer is: nothing".

Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile, whose country is leading net agricultural exporter in the Cairns Group (with Canada and New Zealand), who had to put up with the criticism voiced by Peter Mandelson, stressed for his part the reduced chances of a major breakthrough in negotiations on global trade liberalisation in Hong Kong. In a letter published on Thursday this week, he said that talks had stalled on the farm chapter as the Union refused to go further than its proposal of 29 October. "For agricultural products, the EU has suggested a much more modest average cut in tariffs (around 39%) and a maximum tariff of 100%. However, in contrast with its approach to non-agricultural products, there would be a large number of exceptions where cuts would be nominal. And because tariffs are so high on agricultural products even average cuts of 39% will not be sufficient to let trade occur", he stressed. Although, in his view, Europe has benefited significantly from the results of multilateral negotiations over the past fifty years, it is "now threatening the progress of that system to protect its farmers - at the expense of efficient producers world wide and millions of developing country farmers".