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Defence ministers may agree to open euro 30b armaments mkt to competition
EU trade chief to brief ministers in last huddle before global trade talks


BRUSSELS, NOV 20 (AP) : EU trade ministers meet Monday todiscuss a crucial round of World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong amid doubts that it may not make a hoped-for breakthrough next month that could open up global trade and help the world's poorest countries.The EU's latest offer to cut farm tariffs has been sharply criticized by trade partners who said average tariff cuts of 46 percent did not go far enough.
The fight over cutting agricultural subsidies threatens to derail progress at the Hong Kong negotiations Dec. 13-18 that aim to resolve many of the issues that have been blocking the Doha round of trade talks - named for the Qatari capital where it was launched in 2001. Some European countries have sniped at the EU's negotiating tactics with France saying it was not clear the offer was within agreed limits.
Another report adds, EU defense ministers are expected to agree on a plan Monday to open up their euro30 billion (US$35 billion) arms industry to increased cross-border competition. While the new "code of conduct" will be voluntary and nonbinding, it marks a breakthrough for the EU after decades of trying to persuade nations to relax protection of their tightly guarded national defense markets.
Governments have been able to protect their national defense industry champions because military contracts have been largely excluded from EU legislation that has ripped down barriers to trade within Europe in other sectors.
EU officials say more than half the euro30 billion (US$35 billion) annual spending on new military equipment in Europe lies outside EU free market rules.