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Ag Holds Trade Negotiation Key

Trade ministers meeting in Manila say that the ag portion of the Doha Round trade talks may be in better shape than the industry side of the talks.

A lot of eyes are on the agriculture portion of the Doha Round of talks for the World Trade Organization, but trade ministers meeting in Manila over the weekend say that the industry portion of those talks may be in worse shape.

The last draft agricultural proposal put forth before the trade talks took a break had very little significant opposition. However, the ministers discussed the fact that parallel proposals on the industrial trade side have come up short with developing countries unwilling to cut import tariffs to open their markets.

When ministers reconvene in Geneva the talks will turn to agriculture, but that's due to the fact that the ag side is farther along in its discussions. The industry discussions will need to be readdressed, according to ministers at the Manila meeting. In fact on trade official told Reuters that disagreement over industry issues could spill over into ag negotiations.

A lot of developing countries are unwilling to open their markets to developed, and other developing, countries by cutting tariffs. One negotiating point is apparently U.S. ag subsidies, which developing countries claim distorts trade. They want to see those programs cut before they rollback import tariffs.

Developing countries can keep some special and sensitive products on a tariff list, but clarifying those lists will be important when talks resume in Geneva later this year.

It appears talks are slowly starting again with the WTO negotiations moving forward. In September, 21 leaders of Asia-Pacific economies, along with President George W. Bush, will meet in Sydney. This event could add some political momentum to the Doha round talks, according to wire reports.

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