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Four-Party Talks on Trade Liberalization Collapse


Critical four-party talks to revive the long-stalled Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations broke down in Germany Thursday, with the United States and European Union blaming India and Brazil for the impasse. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

In Washington, President Bush expressed disappointment and accused Brazil and India of sticking for their own interests at the expense of poorer countries. In Potsdam, Germany, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said India and Brazil demanded huge cuts in the developed countries' farm subsidies but refused to cut import tariffs that protect their domestic industries.

"It was clear that the U.S. and E.U. were prepared to make concessions - significant contributions to this round - there was a lack of flexibility, indeed a rigidity, with respect to the advanced developing countries [Brazil and India] who were present," said Susan Schwab.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns agreed.

"We felt the mood was good, although there were still difficult issues left with the European Union," said Mike Johanns. "We did not find that with Brazil and India, unfortunately. And so the talks have sadly and unfortunately broken down. And that's where we find ourselves today."

The talks in Potsdam involved four key negotiating parties - the United States and European Union as well as India and Brazil representing a group of 20 developing countries.

The Brazilian and Indian delegates walked out a day before the talks were to end Friday. Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim was reported as saying the U.S. and European concessions on agricultural subsidies were so meager it was pointless to continue.

The talks, which are sponsored by the World Trade Organization and started six years ago in Doha, Qatar, have faltered several times over the farm subsidy issue. The United States, the world's biggest farm exporter, says it will cut its subsidies but only if developing countries open their markets to American imports.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said, despite the setback, it is still possible to reach an overall agreement this year, a sentiment shared by Schwab and WTO chief Pascal Lamy.

Schwab told reporters that, if the talks collapse, the biggest losers would be the poorest developing countries.

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