GENEVA (AFP)--The World Trade Organization's chief agriculture negotiator said Friday that members have made "a lot of progress" in recent talks but more still needs to be done before an agreement is reached.
"We've made a lot of progress," ambassador Crawford Falconer told reporters. " I've got greater clarity than I had before but by no means is everything resolved."
Falconer, who is also New Zealand's ambassador to the WTO, has called on the U.S. to reduce its agricultural subsidies to $13 billion to $16.4 billion - a range on which Washington says it is prepared to negotiate. But the draft text has been criticized as unfair by several developing countries and Falconer has been forced to delay to an unspecified date a fresh revision of the accord due to the lack of consensus.
He said he now hopes to present a revised draft by the end of January. Falconer last week issued 16 "working documents" on key agricultural issues such as quotas and tariffs for special and sensitive products, with the aim of provoking discussions among the WTO's 151 members, trade sources said. "I certainly intend to drag them right out of their comfort zones and I intend to capture whatever consensus is there," Falconer said. Agriculture is a crucial element of the WTO's Doha round of trade talks, which aim to cut barriers and spur development but which have been mired in deadlock and disagreement since their launch back in November 2001.
Developing and emerging nations are seeking cuts in rich country farm subsidies and in import tariffs for agricultural produce, while industrialized nations want better access to markets in poorer economies for their manufactured goods in return. (END) Dow Jones Newswires01-11-081401ETCopyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.