WTO: Hong Kong Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference, v. 1

By December 12, 2005Trade

hongkonglogo_85pxls.gifAs we mentioned, this week (December 13-19) is the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong for the Doha Round of trade talks. Courtesy of NAM trade policy vice president, Frank Vargo, we are going to provide readers a daily update from the region. Here’s today’s dispatch from Frank:

As we wait for the WTO starting gun to sound tomorrow afternoon in Hong Kong, the mood is decidedly pessimistic. The NAM members who have come to Hong Kong to advise U.S. government negotiators are concerned whether the European Union (EU) in particular is prepared to bargain, or whether it basically wants to divert attention away from real negotiations.

While 75% of world trade is in manufactured goods, U.S. and other manufacturers know that the real key to the WTO negotiations is an agricultural deal. Without such a deal, nothing can happen in manufacturing trade or services trade. And the name of the game for decades is whether the EU will be willing to finally make changes that will give the U.S. and other countries access to its huge agricultural market.

The United States has offered to put its agricultural subsidies on the chopping block, and make real cuts — but has said only if the EU is willing to let us into its farm goods market. If agricultural trade is going to be open trade, than it can’t be a one-way deal with the U.S. being the only big country moving in that direction.

But the WTO talks have been too agricultural-centric. The EU has always said that if it is going to let people into its agricultural market, that European manufacturers and services providers have to get access to markets that are currently shielded — particularly the advanced developing countries like Brazil, China, India, etc.

And that’s what the NAM has been pressing for as well. The U.S. market for manufactured goods is almost completely wide open. Our import tariffs average about 3 percent, and in fact 70 percent of everything we import already comes in duty-free. Its time to get a level playing field, but as we look around today, we don’t see the bulldozers coming over the hill to get the job done.

More tomorrow.

Here’s a copy of our press release from today, too.

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