BRUSSELS, Oct 26 (Reuters): Europe's trade commissioner yesterday won full support from Brussels to make new concessions on farm imports, despite a fresh attempt by France to tie his hands in global trade talks.
With a key meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) approaching, Peter Mandelson told fellow commissioners Brussels had to decide this week what more it could put on the table to prevent the collapse of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) round.
Afterwards, his spokesman said the Commission gave its "100 per cent backing for a further offer on the sensitive issue of import tariffs that have protected European farmers for decades.
"This offer would be a conditional offer which would enable other WTO members to make further moves in relation to agriculture, industrial goods and services," spokesman Peter Power said in a statement.
Mandelson has said Brussels must move on farm tariffs in order to extract concessions from other key WTO members in areas that are of interest to Europe, like manufactured goods.
The EU has been blamed by the United States and other key WTO members for failing to come up with enough farm trade concessions and creating an impasse in the trade talks.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic have warned that a mid-December meeting of the 148-nation WTO might be scrapped altogether without a breakthrough soon.
That would torpedo a four-year push to free up trade designed to boost the world economy and help poorer countries.
Top negotiators from the EU, the United States, India, Australia and Brazil are due to hold a teleconference Friday to discuss the expected new EU offer.
But Brussels is also under pressure from France and other EU members not to make any more offers in agriculture.
France is the staunchest defender of Europe's subsidies for farmers and high tariffs on agricultural imports. It has accused Mandelson of exceeding his mandate in pre-Hong Kong negotiations with the United States, Australia, Brazil and India.
Meanwhile, Paris report adds: The European Commission does not intend to go beyond its mandate in global trade talks, but it needs some flexibility from EU members to advance on the issue, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said today.
France, the staunchest defender of Europe's subsidies for farmers and high tariffs on agricultural imports, had accused European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson of exceeding his mandate with an offer at World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks.
France has said it will keep a close eye on world trade talks, but Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said this week Paris was not at the point of considering whether to use its veto power to block a trade deal.
The European Union has been accused by the United States and other key WTO members of failing to come up with enough farm trade concessions and creating an impasse in the talks.
Another message says: The European Union is expected to come forward Thursday with a new offer to open its agricultural markets but it may not be enough to break a deadlock in world farm trade talks, a top US official said Tuesday.
The stalemate on farm trade issues has raised questions about whether the World Trade Organisation will go ahead with a scheduled meeting in Hong Kong in December. Portman said the United States wants Hong Kong to be a success and "will not be backing off" from having the scheduled meeting.
Top trade officials from the EU, the United States, India, Australia and Brazil will hold a teleconference Friday to discuss the expected new EU offer, Portman said.
Meanwhile, US business leaders and trade experts praised US Trade Representative Rob Portman yesterday for injecting new life into world trade talks and said it was now up to European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to follow his lead and keep the talks alive.
With a conditional US offer two weeks ago to slash domestic farm subsidies, Portman has spared the United States blame for the possible collapse of the negotiations and intensified pressure on the EU to act.