US confident of Gatt agreement

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - Ron Brown, the US Commerce Secretary, said yesterday that he was increasingly confident the Gatt trade talks could be successfully concluded by the end of the year, writes Sarah Lambert.

His comments came as Edouard Balladur, the French Prime Minister, took the unusual step of travelling to Brussels to lobby the EC Commission. He said he wanted to counter the image that 'a few hundred French farmers are preventing prosperity from breaking out in the world'.

France's decision to lift its objections to a US-EC accord curbing oilseed production has opened the way for optimism about the Gatt talks. Over the next few weeks a flurry of diplomatic activity is expected to make progress towards settlement of outstanding issues.

Mr Balladur has been invited to Washington to discussions with President Bill Clinton next Tuesday and Sir Leon Brittan, the community's external trade commissioner, is also to visit the US next week to talk with Mickey Kantor, the US special trade representative.

Mr Balladur stressed that the Blair House agricultural accord between the US and EC remained unacceptable to France. But he held back from demanding that it be renegotiated. 'We want world trade to flourish but feel this cannot happen under just any conditions. Europe is the most open market in the world. Others should make comparable efforts.'