WTO draft sets deadline to end subsidies
Updated: 2005-12-18 17:14
HONG KONG - WTO negotiators
reached a breakthrough on the most contentious issue of the six-day talks,
agreeing that wealthy countries would eliminate farm export subsidies by 2013,
paving the way for a broader agreement to cut trade barriers across various
sectors, according to a copy of the final draft agreement obtained by
The breakthrough, coming after all-night negotiations, appeared to save the
World Trade Organization meeting from an embarrassing collapse provided the
final draft is approved by all 149 member nations and territories who are
meeting later Sunday.
The 2013 date was a key demand of the European Union, which held out against
intense pressure from Brazil and other developing nations to phase out a
significant proportion of its farm export subsidies by 2010. Developing nations
say the government farm payments to promote exports undercuts the competitive
advantage of poor farmers.
The revised text also sets April 30, 2006, as a new deadline to work out
formulas for cutting farm and industrial tariffs and subsidies ¡ª a key step
toward forging a sweeping global free trade treaty by the end of next year.
The draft noted "the compelling urgency of seizing the moment and driving the
process to a conclusion as rapidly as possible. We must maintain momentum. You
don't close divergences by taking time off to have a cup of tea," it said.
"To meet this challenge and achieve this goal, we must act decisively and
with real urgency," the text said.
The final draft also calls on wealthy nations to allow duty-free and
quota-free privileges to at least 97 percent of products exported by the
so-called least developed countries by 2008.
In addition, the draft retained an earlier proposal that rich countries to
eliminate all export subsidies on cotton in 2006.
These measures were considered critical to the overall success of the current
round of WTO talks that were launched four years ago in Doha, Qatar,
particularly to address the concerns of developing nations.