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Survey: Few expect farm deal at WTO talks

(Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: SYDNEY - Less than a third of global trade experts and negotiators expect next month's World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico to reach a deal on the contentious issue of farm trade, a survey found.

The poll of more than 100 policymakers by the University of Adelaide, published on Tuesday, said only 29 percent of respondents expected the meeting to agree a framework for negotiations on agricultural subsidies and market access.

"It's hard to see how they're going to do it," Andrew Stoler, head of the university's Institute for International Business, Economics and Law, told Reuters.

"Coming on the heels of a series of missed negotiating deadlines, a failure for agriculture would have serious negative repercussions on other topics under negotiation in WTO's 'Doha Round'," said Stoler, a former WTO deputy director general.

The United States and the European Union are at loggerheads over an agricultural agreement that can be supported by the 144 other WTO members at its September 10 to 14 meeting in Cancun.

The two sides, with their respective allies, remain far apart on the "three pillars" of the negotiations -- domestic supports, export subsidies and market access.

In addition, the EU is pressing for a fourth pillar on "geographical indications" that would bar foreign producers from selling food products using European place names.

Sixty-seven percent of those interviewed by the university said they doubted an agreement would be reached in Mexico on such food products.

The current trade round, launched more than a year and a half ago in Doha, Qatar, also covers manufactured goods, services and other topics, like foreign direct investment.

Some farm goods exporters, like Australia, have threatened to walk away from the round if a deal is not struck on agriculture.

On the positive side, the university survey found a clear majority expected an accord over access to cheap medicines for poor and developing countries.

The Institute for International Business, Economics and Law has conducted its survey on the trade talks every five weeks in Geneva, Paris, Brussels, London, Washington, Ottawa, Tokyo and Canberra.

Stoler said around half of the respondents were directly involved in the WTO negotiations.