ONLY Sweden and Britain sided with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson last week when he repeated that agreeing a world trade deal ahead of the US presidential election in November is crucial.
When new negotiating drafts on trade in agricultural and industrial goods were presented by WTO mediators, it was no surprise that farming nations such as France and Ireland led opposition, but they were joined by countries such as Germany, which slammed the latest offer, in particular because they said newly proposed flexibility would enable large emerging economies such as China to shelter entire sectors of their industry from outside competition.
A majority of the EU’s 27 states expressed concern about the drafts. Poland and Lithuania were reported to have real problems, while countries such as Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain and Hungary were “concerned”.
There was also a flurry of criticism from the EU’s main business lobbies, such as BusinessEurope, metalworkers, car-makers, and the paper, chemicals and textile industries.
Mandelson said discussion on market access for manufactured goods was becoming the big political question of this round, but insisted he still had support from EU governments to continue with talks. However, French trade secretary Anne-Marie Idrac had “a lot of questions” about the agriculture proposals, and Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin was particularly worried about the impact on the meat industry.
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