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Europeans Reported Considering Economic Summit With US, Japan

December 5, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Europeans are considering a summit meeting with North America and Japan to break the deadlock in nearly five years of worldwide trade talks, Italian Agriculture Minister Giovannia Goria said Thursday.

″I realize this is exceptional,″ he told reporters. ″But I believe that conclusion of an agreement is so important that it may require the intervention of the heads of state and government.″

The Uruguay Round of trade talks, under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, broke down a year ago with Europe resisting demands for sharp reduction in its agriculture subsidies.

Goria, a former prime minister, said that although agriculture has been the main sticking point, the 108 governments in the talks are also discussing trade in services, from banking to air travel.

Success could mean an increase in world trade of many billions of dollars, and a reduction in the farm subsidies that now cost wealthy countries an estimated $360 billion annually.

The United States and other countries have asked the European Community to cut its farm subsidy program by 75 percent and its farm export subsidies by 90 percent. The EC has offered far smaller cuts.

President Bush, during a visit to The Hague last month to discuss the GATT talks, said failure to reach an agreement would mean ″impoverishing rivalry″ between the United States and Western Europe.

Goria said the possibility of calling a special summit came up last July at the annual economic summit of the so-called G-7 - the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.

Asked whether it would be possible to compromise by splitting the difference on proposed subsidy cuts, Goria replied: ″That’s what I thought until last night.″

He said Agriculture Secretary Edward R. Madigan told him that the latest European proposal was not acceptable.

William Harlow, a White House spokesman, said: ″We haven’t heard any discussion″ of holding a special summit.

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