U.S. Says WTO Proposal Fails To Create Opportunities

Criticisms bode ill for September negotiations in the WTO's drive for a new global trade pact.

GENEVA (AP) - The United States said a new WTO proposal for liberalizing global trade in industrial goods is too easy on major developing countries and fails to create enough market opportunities for American manufacturers.
The meeting Wednesday of the World Trade Organization's 150 members also highlighted the differences among developing countries, with Mexico calling the draft agreement ''magnificent'' while others expressed their disdain.
The early reactions bode ill for September negotiations aimed at breaking a six-year logjam in the WTO's drive for a new global trade pact.
''There are rather large differences between the countries as we go into this process,'' U.S. Ambassador Peter Allgeier told reporters.
He said the goods proposal released last week by the WTO's mediator on industrial goods, Don Stephenson, ''does not provide the (necessary) magnitude of real new market access—not just for us, but for developing countries as well.''
Stephenson's draft calls for major developing countries such as Brazil, China and India to cut many of their goods tariffs to a level between 19 and 23 percent. The U.S., the 27-nation European Union, Japan and other rich countries would have to bring their top rates down to 8-9 percent.
Allgeier said flexibility clauses included in the draft mean many emerging powers ''would be able to maintain very high tariffs, including tariffs as high as 60 percent.'' While average tariffs in developing countries are currently double those of rich nations, Allgeier said ''at the end of the round that ratio would be three to one.''
The global trade talks, known as the Doha round, aim to add billions of dollars to the world economy and help poorer countries develop their economies through new trade flows. But negotiations have stumbled since their inception in Qatar's capital in 2001, largely because of wrangling between rich and poor countries over eliminating barriers to farm trade and, more recently, manufacturing trade.
While Mexican Ambassador Fernando de Mateo called Stephenson's proposal ''a magnificent point of departure for continuing the work,'' other developing nations rejected it for going much further than what has been proposed in a separate draft on agriculture, a sector highly sensitive in the world's richest countries.
''This text is not a basis for negotiations,'' said Venezuelan Ambassador Oscar Carvallo. ''It does not have legal standing. It is just one more document on the table.''
Brazil, India and others said in a joint statement that the proposal does not have the potential to lead to a consensus. They accused Stephenson of requiring them to make ''severe cuts'' in their industrial tariffs ''to satisfy the commercial interests of the developed countries.''
Argentina, said Ambassador Alfredo Dumont, could not accept the proposal ''today, tomorrow, in September or any time in the lifetime of this round.''
Stephenson, a Canadian ambassador, told delegations that he had done the work they had entrusted to him.
''I understood this job to be to challenge everyone,'' he said. ''So that is what I have done.''
He also expressed disappointment that countries were sticking rigidly to their entrenched positions. ''It has to change if they want a deal,'' he told reporters after the meeting.
WTO negotiators have already abandoned hopes of agreeing on the framework of a deal by the end of July, originally set to leave enough time for the technical work on a final accord by year-end. But they are trying to forge as many compromises as possible before 2008, when U.S. elections will be held, and 2009, when Indian elections are scheduled.
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