EU in a last big push to clinch deal over Gatt

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The Independent Online
THE European Commission's top trade and finance officials are joining Sir Leon Brittan, Europe's chief Gatt negotiator, in Washington tomorrow for the biggest and most concerted push yet by Brussels to secure a world trade deal.

Sir Leon is heading a 15-strong Commission delegation for the last scheduled talks with the US before the 15 December deadline for an agreement on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

'We intend to show the Americans that we are serious about getting a deal,' one European Union official said this weekend. Sir Leon is holding two full days of talks with his US counterpart, Mickey Kantor, in a bid to break the deadlock over a farm trade deal. This is crucial to an overall Gatt package joining 108 nations in a new free-trade pact.

The Gatt deal is seen as the best hope for beating the recession, although the Gatt negotiations began in 1986 and are two years overdue for agreement.

Sir Leon believes there is no chance of reviving a deal if the deadline passes without agreement. The Americans are equally determined to meet the deadline and agriculture officials from both sides have been holding secret talks in Brussels to find a way out of the farm trade impasse. Neither side wishes to jeopardise progress by speaking publicly about the negotiations.

The sticking point remains France, which refuses to accept the stance negotiated by Sir Leon on Europe's behalf last year.