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New Zealand for improvement in WTO farm trade reform plan

New Zealand told its negotiators to seek improvements in a WTO plan for farm trade reform that has disappointed agricultural exporting nations.

business Updated: Sep 06, 2003 13:40 IST

New Zealand told its negotiators on Tuesday to seek improvements in a World Trade Organization plan for farm trade reform that has disappointed agricultural exporting nations.

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said a draft text to be considered by trade ministers at a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, next month falls short of what is needed.

New Zealand wants an end to export subsidies and meaningful reductions in tariffs that it says block market access and prevent market growth.

The latest WTO proposal is an attempt to break a deadlock in its troubled free trade negotiations, launched in 2001 and designed to boost the flagging world economy.

"We're after fundamental reform in these areas ... export subsidies must go in this round," Sutton said.

Trade ambassadors in Geneva were to start debate on Tuesday on the compromise draft text presented by the chairman of the WTO's general council, Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay.

Although the compromise proposal covers all the issues in the WTO negotiations, most of the interest has focused on trade in agricultural goods, which is the major concern of most developing countries and some of the industrialized nations as well. In his draft text, Perez del Castillo mostly accepted a joint offer by the European Union and the United States to make cuts to their import tariffs. However the document contains no figures. Developing countries also must cut tariffs, according to the document.

In a change to his previous proposal, Perez del Castillo stops short of setting a deadline for the elimination of all farm subsidies aimed at export. The European Union has said it is prepared to reduce subsidies but cannot eliminate them completely. "None of the really hard decisions have been taken and there is still everything to play for," Sutton said.

First Published: Aug 26, 2003 11:52 IST