G7 urged to resolve row on markets

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The Independent Online
LEADING food exporting countries yesterday called on the Group of Seven industrial countries rapidly to settle disputes on market access for industrial products and services, so they can focus instead on reviving stalled talks on farm trade reforms.

The 14-nation Cairns Group ended a two-day ministerial meeting in Bangkok with a demand that G7 leaders, who will hold their summit in Tokyo from 7-9 July, commit themselves again to making agriculture a key part of the Uruguay Round of world trade talks.

The Tokyo summit was expected to approve a landmark accord on market access for goods and services by cutting or eliminating tariffs or non-tariff barriers to trade between them. The aim was then to broaden the agreement to take in the Third World countries and smaller industrial states. But political turmoil in Japan after the recent collapse of the government has cast fresh doubt over whether an agreement can be reached.

New questions have also been raised over whether last December's 'Blair House' agreement between the US and the European Community on curbing farm export subsidies will hold. Both Blair House and a G7 market access deal are crucial for a successful conclusion of the farm trade- to-patents world trade talks this year.

Peter Cook, the Australian trade minister, said multilateral talks on agriculture must resume in Geneva after the G7 summit in July if the Uruguay Round Gatt negotiations were to be concluded on schedule.

Yesterday's communique by the Australian-led Cairns Group attacked rich countries for protecting domestic agricultural markets from outside competition and reducing trade opportunities.