Brittan urges Japan to join in trade talks

Click to follow
SIR LEON Brittan, the European Community's external trade commissioner, yesterday joined the United States in urging Japan to contribute more directly to efforts to revive the stalled world trade talks of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

During a second day of talks in Washington, Sir Leon also repeated warnings that the new Clinton administration should resist attempting to go back on elements of the Gatt package already considered agreed, notably the controversial EC-US understanding on agriculture.

Anxious to pre-empt any retreat by Washington from the farm pact, Sir Leon said it should 'surely be regarded as ground that has been well-tilled and ground we should not go over again'. But he praised the US decision, announced on Thursday, to ask Congress for more time to conclude a Gatt deal.

Advocating a new approach of 'parallelism' in the Gatt round, Sir Leon said governments should come forward quickly with new market-opening concessions. 'If everyone says I'm not going to release anything until you release what I want from you, we're all going to hold back to the last minute and nobody is going to know when the last minute is,' he commented.

Sir Leon said it was important for the Japanese particularly to 'come forward at an early stage and to empty their pockets and to put on the table what they have there'.

The US has expressed similar concerns to Japan's Foreign Minister, Michio Watanabe, also in Washington for the past two days for talks with administration figures, including President Clinton.

Sir Leon conceded that a Gatt agreement might still be far off, an observation made rather pointedly this week by his counterpart, the US Trade Representative, Mickey Kantor.

'It is quite clear that there are a number of important and difficult issues to be settled before the talks can be concluded,' Sir Leon said.

Neither Sir Leon nor Mr Kantor has been clear on how long an extension of the so- called 'fast-track' authority should be sought by the administration from Congress. If it was too long, Sir Leon warned, any renewed momentum towards a final deal could be lost.

Talks will begin in Washington next week on the EC-US dispute over procurement, which led Washington last week to exclude European bidders from some federal contracts. Sir Leon dismissed the US complaints yesterday, accusing the US of practising greater discrimination through 'Buy America' provisions in federal purchasing.