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Germany regrets 'lost opportunity' at WTO talks

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10:19 CEST+02:00
German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer regretted on Wednesday the "lost opportunity" in the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks and called for negotiations to continue.

"The time for a further step toward liberalising trade in agricultural and industrial products was apparently not ripe," he said in a statement. "In light of rising food prices, I had hoped for a positive impetus for the world agricultural economy, also and in particular for the sake of the developing countries."

He said the European Union had already opened its market to developing countries by lifting tariffs and quotas. "The EU went beyond that unilaterally in the talks to the limit of what it could tolerate," he said.

Seehofer said the EU had tried to serve as a mediator between the "diverging market access interests of the United States, India and China" and called for further talks until a resolution is found.

"Even though we do not have a result yet, the round has not permanently failed," he said. "It is better to continue working and reach a good outcome than to wrap it up at any price. I agree with my EU colleagues on that."

After the talks on a global trade pact collapsed late Tuesday, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said the failure was "heartbreaking" as it was due to a single element in a package of proposals.

The Economy Ministry said Berlin had been hoping for the "right signal at the right time for the global economy" and that it would press for talks to resume as soon as possible.

"We cannot afford long idle period now," a state secretary at the ministry, Bernd Pfaffenbach, said in a statement. "All WTO members would benefit from freer markets."

He dismissed the notion that the deadlock was the result of a confrontation between poor and rich countries and offered a thinly veiled criticism of China and India.

"A core problem was that big and competitive emerging countries hid behind their chosen status as developing countries to win concessions for themselves," he said.

The Geneva talks collapsed on Tuesday after nine gruelling days of negotiations aimed at reaching a consensus on subsidy levels and import tariffs for a new deal under the WTO's seven-year-old Doha Round. Negotiations stumbled on proposals for measures to protect poor farmers that would impose a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or price fall, delegates said.

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