Gatt fuse burns dangerously low as deadline nears: Severe problems hang over world trade accord as Washington and Europe remain locked in last-minute negotiations

THE FUSE that leads to Gatt's Wednesday deadline was burning yesterday, as negotiators struggled to salvage a deal from the obstacles that risk destroying the most ambitious liberalisation of the world trading system ever attempted.

The European Union's chief negotiator, Sir Leon Brittan, who flew to Gatt's Geneva headquarters to see his Japanese, Canadian and US counterparts, emerged from the long meetings declaring that the talks were in trouble.

'We have very severe problems at the moment. Things are not looking good. I think we have a bit of a crisis on our hands,' he said. The US special trade representative, Mickey Kantor, was more optimistic: 'I think the odds have certainly shifted in favour of a successful completion but we're not there,' he said. Sir Leon and Mr Kantor were due to hold further talks last night.

Peter Sutherland, the Gatt director-general whose job is to steer all 115 parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to an accord by 15 December, put pressure on the two trade blocs to end the logjam by laying the responsibility for failure squarely at their doors. He called on the EU and US to bury the hatchet and match their pro-Gatt rhetoric with results. Only then, he said, could a deal be sealed, noting that Wednesday's deadline 'was not an expendable date'.

The 103 other parties to the talks have dealt with most of the other dossiers - most crucially agricultural trade - in a series of tradeoffs agreed over the past weeks. Only a few problems remain, yet failure on these will blow agreements on everything else out of the water.

Mr Sutherland had hoped to have the bare bones of the free-trade package ready yesterday, in time for the legal texts to be prepared and shown to goverments before Wednesday's meeting, when all parties to the Gatt will signal whether or not they can accept a deal. But that deadline has slipped - it is now clear that the negotiations will go on up to the very last minute.

In Brussels, the European partners over the weekend made a big push for victory by resolving internal squabbles to the satisfaction of France, whose antagonism to several sections of the proposed Gatt deal and efforts to extract compensation guarantees, have for so long prevented the European Union from presenting a united front.

Gerard Longuet, the French Foreign Trade Minister, was optimistic yesterday about the chances for a deal. 'I think we are going to get there . . . I deeply hope so,' he said.

The remaining obstacles will be hard to remove, in part because of the strength of the vested interests backing them; Geneva is bristling with lobby groups. They are:

Audiovisual - The EU wants a 'cultural protection' clause and control over the introduction of hi-tech developments in the future.

Aeronautics - The US complains of unfair European subsidies for Airbus. Europe says the US makes 'hidden' subsidies through support for military programmes.

Trade rules: The US wants to keep the right to act unilaterally against unfair trading. This is particularly contested by Japan and South-east Asian countries.

Services - This area accounts for a third of world trade. The US intends to open its markets wider to some countries than to others, which is unacceptable to everybody. But there is agreement that Japan must also move further. Washington is also reluctant to open its market in maritime services.

There was little progress in any of these areas at the weekend and Mr Sutherland said it was not possible to drop difficult dossiers. On Gatt, nothing is decided until everything is decided.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?