Trade talks need 'better' US offer

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The Independent Online

Paul Wolfowitz, the head of the World Bank, turned up the pressure on his former employers at the White House yesterday to produce a "better offer to unlock" the stalled trade talks.

In a letter to the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) nations before their summit this weekend, Mr Wolfowitz warned time was "running out". He said the three main players - the United States, European Union and G20 group of emerging economies - needed to give ground but he hinted the US should move first.

"The G20 wants steeper cuts in US farm subsidies before accepting required cuts in industrial goods. Washington can unlock this by stepping forward with a better offer," he said. "If this happens, the EU will ... meet them both with a strengthened offer. There is a three-way bargain here."

The former deputy defence secretarysaid a successful trade deal would lift millions out of poverty and boost incomes in developing countries.

Negotiations on a new trade agreement began in 2001, aimed at boosting development in the world's poorest countries. But they ran into the ground over demands by poor countries that their rich neighbours cut their subsidies and tariffs protecting their farmers.

An initial deadline of December 2004 was missed after a summit of all 148 nations ended in disarray. The latest deadline of December 2006 looks under threat unless an outline agreement can be reached this month.

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