Baker may meet EC over Gatt

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The Independent Online
JAMES BAKER, the US Secretary of State, may meet European Community officials at the weekend in an attempt to break the stalemate over the talks on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The international trade negotiations have dragged on for six years. A draft agreement was produced last December by Arthur Dunkel, director-general of the Gatt, but since then virtually no progress has been made, largely because of disagreements between the US and the EC over agriculture.

Mr Baker is flying to Europe for the annual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialised countries in Munich, which starts on Monday. The Gatt talks are not on the agenda for the meeting, but officials said the topic was bound to surface either on the margins of the talks or under a different heading.

The US and the EC are hoping to organise discussions over the weekend to give the Gatt talks political impetus. Mr Baker is most likely to hold talks with Frans Andriessen, the EC's External Relations Commissioner.

The EC is only an observer at the G7 meeting but Britain, which holds the presidency of the EC, is a full member. Britain has made a successful resolution to the trade round one of its top priorities for the next six months. Other EC countries, including France, face stiff domestic opposition to further compromises on agriculture.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday called on the key players to make a final effort to reach a deal.

'We are doing all we can . . . and we are in very close touch with all our main GATT partners, including the United States,' Mr Hurd said in a parliamentary debate on the British EC presidency.

'There is an opportunity. If that is let slip we do our own interests a disservice, but just as much we do a disservice to the interests of those in the poorer parts of the world,' he said.

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