The European Union called on the United States to show leadership in reviving the stalled Doha trade talks ahead of meetings in Washington next Monday of top EU officials with President George W. Bush and the new Democrat congressional leaders.
"The moment of truth for the Doha trade negotiations is fast approaching, and the US holds the key to making a deal possible in 2007" EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement on Friday from Brussels. A "genuine and serious" offer on cutting US agriculture subsidies was needed, said a spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who will accompany Barroso for talks in Washington. However, developing states also needed "to bring something to the table," the spokesman added. Calling on the new Democrat-dominated US Congress to seize the opportunity to show leadership in the Doha round, the spokesman said that while there had been protectionist rhetoric during US elections in November, the Democrats were "by and large multilateralists." The EU delegation has meetings scheduled with Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid who now lead both houses of the US Congress. After talks with Bush on Thursday, German chancellor Angela Merkel warned that a "window of opportunity" for reaching a world trade agreement was closing fast. Germany currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Earlier this week, Berlin said it would seek to harmonize US and EU laws and standards in order to boost investment and trade in both directions. However, creating an EU-US trade area was not meant as a substitute for the stalled Doha talks, aimed at liberalizing global trade, German government officials pointed out in Berlin. The Doha trade negotiations, launched by the World Trade Organization in 2001 in a bid to break down global trade barriers, were halted last July after major powers failed to agree on slashing farm and industrial tariffs. The bitter row was over how much the EU, United States and other wealthy countries should reduce farm subsidies and tariffs that poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America claim prevents them from selling their agricultural goods abroad. The EU has said it is ready to move close to what large developing nations, led by Brazil and India, are demanding. But it wants the U.S. to show leadership in the dispute. "The U.S needs to come to the table with a genuine and serious offer in terms of what it can do in this area" underlined the EU spokesman who recalled U.S. legislators are readying a new Farm Bill by the end of March. Barroso, Mandelson and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner are scheduled to meet with Bush on January 8. In addition to the Doha round, talks are also expected to focus on energy security, climate change, the Middle East, and fighting terrorism. According to EU Commission figures, EU-US trade represents over a billion US dollars per day, 40% of global trade, and two thirds of global investment flowing into the US stems from Europe, approximately 60.5 billion US dollars in 2005.