INTERNATIONAL

France threatens to wreck WTO deal

LONDON, JULY 24. France is threatening to wreck a World Trade Organisation (WTO) plan to revive talks on a global trade pact.

The European Trade Ministers fly to Brussels on Monday knowing that world trade talks could implode if the 25-member European Union fails to agree its own negotiating position.

France has lost faith in the E.U. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy's negotiations and wants to force a vote in order to frame a new mandate for him. This could split Europe and also delay any progress on a wider international agreement for nine months.

Last chance

WTO talks beginning in Geneva on Tuesday will be the last chance to make meaningful progress on a global deal until after the U.S. elections.

France is furious that under the current draft framework published 10 days ago, it would be forced to open up its beef, dairy and cereals markets to imports.

British Trade Minister, Mike O'Brien, is set to fly to Brussels on Monday and is expected to put pressure on France to accept the deal as it stands.

A British source said: `France is causing flutters.

They are focusing on the legality of the commission's position. Everyone's rushing to their lawyers. This could be France's ``Iraq'' moment when it just says: ``Non! We have had enough''.'

France, the main beneficiary of the E.U.'s euros 40 billion farm budget, and others such as Ireland are most worried about an E.U. offer to scrap agricultural export subsidies and open its domestic farm markets to imports.

Developing countries, however, are frustrated that any concessions they receive are ambiguous and could be further watered down.

But French demands are also causing worries among other member states. — Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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