WTO negotiators race for compromise deal
Updated: 2005-12-18 14:30
HONG KONG - Groggy trade negotiators struggled Sunday to hammer out an
agreement that would reflect only modest progress in cutting global trade
barriers as World Trade Organization talks entered their final hours.
Outside the venue, riot police removed hundreds of protesters who staged
a sit-in that shut down one of Hong Kong's busiest streets a day after
demonstrators rioted and battled with police.
the meeting due to wrap up later in the day, negotiators were still unable to
resolve a dispute over when to end export subsidies - an issue that has emerged
as the make-or-break issue for the six-day WTO talks. Delegates were also
wrangling over a proposal on cotton and a package to give the world's poorest
nations special trade privileges.
security officers, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy leaves the Hong Kong
Convention and Exhibition Center after an overnight meeting Sunday, Dec.
18, 2005. The last-minute negotiations at the WTO summit were focused on
whether delegates could agree on a date to end export subsidies, with
developing nations saying a deal had been struck while the European Union
said there still was no agreement. [AP]
Developing nations led by Brazil say
export subsidies, payments to farmers to promote exports, undercut the
competitive advantage of their farmers and are pushing for an agreement that
will bind members to eliminate such programs by 2010.
But the 25-nation
European Union insists that the cuts should wait until 2013 to give European
farmers time to cope with tariffs that are scheduled to be implemented ahead of
In overnight negotiations, Brazil apparently proposed cutting
a certain percentage of export subsidies by 2010, but the EU rejected that as
well, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said.
be "no percentage in 2010," she said midday Sunday after emerging from a meeting
with EU ministers at a Hong Kong hotel.
Asked if an agreement on the
export subsidy issue could be a basis for broader agreement on other areas,
Fischer Boel said: "Let's see. If there is a will, sometimes there's a way."
U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who favors the 2010 date, said
the sides were "very close" to a deal.