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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Trying to Pump New Life Into World Trade Talks

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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Trade officials from a number of countries met in Brazil last week to discuss ways to restart world trade talks. The failure of agricultural negotiations led to the suspension of those talks in July.

From left, E.U. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and W.T.O. chief Pascal Lamy
From left, E.U. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and W.T.O. chief Pascal Lamy

The group of developing countries known as the G-Twenty held the meeting in Rio de Janeiro. Trade officials from the United States, the European Union and Japan also attended the meeting. So did Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization.

The meeting ended with calls for the Doha Round of world trade talks to start again. A statement released after the meeting noted that agriculture is central to the Doha development issues.

"Most of the world's poor make their living out of agriculture," the statement said. But it said their way of life is threatened by government support programs and barriers to markets in international agricultural trade.

Mister Lamy suspended the Doha Round after W.T.O. members could not reach agreement on two major issues: subsidies and market reform.

Developing nations want wealthy industrial countries to reduce or end subsidies. These payments, they say, drive down prices because they permit farmers from rich nations to sell their products for less on the world market.

Industrial nations want developing economies to ease their trade barriers, like import taxes and customs requirements. Developing nations, though, worry that foreign competition will hurt their own industries. Concerns about the effects of foreign competition are not limited to developing nations, of course.

United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab attended the meeting in Brazil. Earlier, she said she was "actively seeking a new way forward for the Doha Round." She said the United States had offered big cuts in import taxes and supports. But E.U. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson called for the United States to make a "fresh proposal."

After the meeting, some officials said there had been progress. No agreements were reached to restart the Doha Round. But Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, said: "The round is alive."

Brazil and other developing countries with fast-growing economies established the G-Twenty in two thousand three. The group has members in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Mario Ritter. You can download transcripts and archives of our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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