EU Trade Ministers Consider Talks
BRUGES, Belgium (AP) _ European Union governments debated Friday the possibility of a new round of global trade talks in November in Qatar, two years after a first attempt collapsed amid fierce riots at a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
Officials said the 15 EU trade ministers would review differences between Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and some 120 other WTO members over how ambitious the agenda should be for the next round of talks.
Ahead of the meeting, Belgian delegate Annemie Neyts, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, met with a delegation of anti-globalization activists who urged the EU to change their approach to global trade, especially in agricultural goods.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched through this medieval town to remind the EU ministers of the needs of the poorest nations. Wary of violent protests that marred EU and other meetings in recent years at which trade issues were discussed, police sealed off the center of town with barbed wire and armored cars, but reported no incidents.
As the conference in Doha, Qatar, gets nearer, consultations among the 142 WTO members are intensifying over what trade areas should be liberalized.
The United States wants the next round of trade talks to focus on agriculture and services. Australia, Argentina and Canada, too, want ambitious cuts in the $300 billion or so that rich countries now allocate to agricultural subsidies annually.
The EU _ which has a long tradition of resisting deep and fast cuts in farm subsidies _ pursues a broader agenda and wants the next global trade round to set rules on investment, competition and environmental policies in addition to liberalizing agriculture and services.
Ahead of the meeting, Neyts told reporters she endorsed the view of anti-globalization activists that more must be done to enable poor countries to enjoy the benefits of free trade.
She added, however, the way to do that was through the WTO. ``Global rules are the best for the future development of trade. For the poor countries, too,″ she said.