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14 May, 2004 - Published 12:30 GMT
'Make or break' in the world trade talks
Trade Ministers meet in Paris today for what could be a make or break moment in world trade talks. Last September trade talks collapsed in Cancun, Mexico with developing nations blaming richer countries for failing to address agricultural subsidies. This report from John Moylan:
Export subsidies cost the EU several billion dollars a year. Critics argue they encourage Europe’s farmers to dump produce on world markets. Developing countries say that drives down prices, hitting the incomes of farmers. So the EU’s offer to eliminate the subsidy was almost universally welcomed. In return, it wants the US to make similar moves and for other nations to cut tariffs and increase quotas to provide more access for EU goods.
That is what Trade Ministers from around the world will be considering at a series of meetings in Paris. As they’re not full World Trade Organisation or WTO meetings, no deal can be agreed. But with key countries represented, the hope is for some indication of whether progress can be made.
But time is running out. The WTO has set a deadline of July for ministers to agree upon an outline deal, aware that after that, the US will be focussed upon forthcoming elections: and some fear if this window of opportunity is missed it could be months and possibly years before another trade deal can be done.
John Moylan, BBC, Paris
window of opportunity