Germany says EU must be firm in WTO talks

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The European Union must be firm in World Trade Organization trade talks despite the global rise in food prices, a German official was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“Due to the food crisis, we could face new demands,” Bernd Pfaffenbach, Germany’s Deputy Economy Minister, was quoted as saying by Financial Times Deutschland daily. “Many developing countries believe we’re conducting protectionist agricultural policies despite our wide reaching offers. But we will not let ourselves be pushed into a corner on agricultural policy,” he said. Surging commodity prices have spurred countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Egypt, Cambodia, Pakistan, Russia, Argentina and Malawi to impose curbs on food exports to ensure their domestic supplies remain plentiful. Such moves lie counter to the spirit of the WTO’s intended Doha round deal, which is meant to make it easier to export and sell agricultural and other goods in overseas markets.

Trade experts believe a breakthrough is needed soon in world trade talks, now in their seventh year, for there to be any chance of a final deal before the end of December. Pfaffenbach said the German government was maintaining its current line, adding: “We want a quick conclusion of the Doha Round, but not at any price.” He said big emerging economies in particular should show more willingness to cut their import tariffs for industrial goods, and he called on the United States to decrease agricultural subsidies. (Reuters)

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