New EU trade chief to visit US in March to push progress in Doha talks

EU's new trade chief said he will visit Washington next month to push for progress on the long-running Doha round.

New EU trade chief to visit US in March to push progress in Doha talks

The European Union's new trade chief said on Friday he will visit Washington next month to push for progress on the long-running Doha round but said his aim was not to "corner" the United States over lack of movement.

Karel de Gucht said he would also discuss bilateral problems between the two trading powers.

These include the push by Brussels for retaliation over the U.S. failure to comply with WTO rulings on anti-dumping, and disputes from food safety to aircraft subsidies.

De Gucht will visit Washington from March 12 to 14 for substantive discussions after talking to his U.S. counterpart Ron Kirk two days ago, only hours after being confirmed in his position.

"I want to establish contacts as soon as possible on a formal basis," de Gucht told reporters after meeting WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and senior Geneva-based trade negotiators.

Asked about the widespread view that the eight-year-old Doha talks are stalled because the Obama administration has more pressing political priorities, de Gucht said he did not intend to blame the United States for the lack of progress.

"We have no ambition whatsoever to corner the United States," said the veteran Belgian politician.

"I'm going to the U.S. with an open mind to discuss with them and see together how we can contribute to an early conclusion of the Doha round and also to resolving our pending bilateral discussions."

Missed targets

De Gucht said there was a contradiction between the calls by G20 political leaders to conclude the Doha deal this year, and their failure to give their negotiators enough leeway to do so. But he said the 2010 deadline -- the latest in a long series of missed targets -- was not important.

"Whether we can do it at the end of this year or beginning of next year, in any case in both circumstances we have to continue working," de Gucht said.

De Gucht said he hoped there would be a deal in 2010 but that depended on other countries.

"Europe is ready to close a deal, any time soon. We are ready for the end-game, and I hope the others will be ready as soon as possible," he said.

He said the EU had already done enough in the talks to open access to its agricultural markets, but did not mention the bloc's high subsidies which other exporters and developing countries say distort markets in farm trade.

"As far as market access is concerned in agricultural products, Europe has been doing what it had to do. It's not because we had the courage to put it on the table that now we can be asked for supplementary concessions with regard to market access," he said.

Turning to China, de Gucht repeated the call he made at confirmation hearings for the yuan to appreciate.

"In the hearing I already said that they have a monetary policy which is -- as all monetary policies by the way -- which is deliberate and we should be better off if the yuan went up a little bit," he said.

De Gucht said he hoped to have high-level discussions with his Chinese counterparts to ensure a good climate between the two trading powers, but Brussels would not hesitate to use measures at the WTO to defend its industries if it believed China was breaking the rules.

In their most recent row, China has launched a dispute at the WTO after the EU extended duties on Chinese and Vietnamese footwear, arguing they were unfairly priced.

Reuters

Last Mod: 12 Şubat 2010, 19:42
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