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Germany

Berlin Eyes Finishing Line in Doha Trade Talks

The German government is pushing for the swift completion of the Doha round of global trade talks, following the World Trade Organization's release of new draft texts on farm and industrial goods.

A container ship in Hamburg's harbor

Officials say a Doha deal will boost Germany's already strong exports

"The federal government would support the completion of the negotiations this year," said Bernd Pfaffenbach, state secretary in the Economics Ministry. He welcomed the WTO's revised negotiating texts, saying he hoped they would help Germany achieve its goal of improved market access for industrial goods and services.

WTO head Pascal Lamy said the new draft texts would act as a catalyst for crucial action.

"We are getting closer to our end game," Lamy said. "These revised negotiating texts illustrate clearly where convergence lies among the WTO members and where we have more work to do."

Delegates leave the WTO's headquarters in Geneva

The WTO hopes the new texts will revive the stalled trade talks

Negotiations for the liberalization of global trade got underway in the Qatari capital, Doha, at the end of 2001 with the goal of reaching a deal by 2004. But discussions became mired in disputes between rich and poor countries on agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs.

Developing nations have been seeking greater access for their agricultural goods on markets in the developed world. Rich nations have, in turn, been pressing for a better deal in emerging economies for their industrial products and services.

Germany stresses need for compromise

In Germany, the world's biggest exporter, the BDI business lobby said the new proposals made it difficult to achieve an ambitious conclusion to Doha.

"The European Commission and EU member states must push for the reduction of industrial tariffs in emerging nations," said BDI spokesman Carsten Kreklau. "A one-sided reduction by industrialized nations is completely unacceptable."

But Economics Ministry State Secretary Pfaffenbach emphasized that all 150 WTO members had to be prepared to compromise if the talks were to come to a balanced conclusion. He said this especially applied to big emerging economies like Brazil and India, adding that developing nations could not be expected to make the same allowances as further developed industrial nations.

Pfaffenbach also said that a swift conclusion to the Doha talks would help improve the supply of foodstuffs in the world's poorest countries.

"Germany will continue to push for the WTO to stronger regulate or abolish export restrictions," he said.

Brazil dissatisfied with new proposals

European countries are pushing for a trade deal before presidential elections in the United States in November signal a change in the US officials involved in the negotiations.

But if Brazil's reaction to the new proposals on farm subsidies and import tariffs is anything to go by, the talks might drag on for some time to come.

Brazil, which heads the G20, a group of developing nations pitted against the US and the EU in the talks, said the new offers on the table were too short on detail.

The country's foreign ministry issued a statement saying that while the proposals were a step in the right direction, they "remain vague on the central questions like subsidy ceilings and tariff barriers in the more advanced economies."

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