Staff writer Japan and the European Union will issue a special joint statement next week calling for a new round of global trade liberalization negotiations to be launched as soon as possible, government sources said Wednesday. The sources said that the joint statement, exclusively focusing on a new round of trade negotiations under the sponsorship of the World Trade Organization, will be issued at a regular ministerial meeting between Japan and the 15-nation EU in Brussels Tuesday. The three Japanese ministers attending the meeting will be Takashi Fukaya, international trade and industry minister; Yohei Kono, foreign minister; and Tokuichiro Tamazawa, agricultural minister. The sources said that the Japan-EU joint statement will stress the need to have a new round of trade negotiations launched as soon as possible despite the collapse of a WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle in early December. The Seattle meeting failed to set a formal agenda for the new round due to sharp differences among the 135 WTO members over whether to link labor and environmental issues with trade as well as over a possible review of antidumping rules and reductions in farm subsidies. Due to the collapse of the Seattle meeting, the new WTO round of global trade negotiations is very unlikely to be inaugurated in the near future. One government source said,”The new round may not be launched at least until after the U.S. presidential election in November because the U.S. is even more unlikely to be flexible during the presidential election campaign than it was at the Seattle meeting.” “But we need to continue trying to rally international support for an early start of the new round of talks because we firmly believe it will benefit every country,” the source said. The sources said that Japan proposed to the EU that a joint statement on the new WTO round be issued at their ministerial meeting next week. Japan and the EU are now working on the specific wording of the document, the sources added. The sources said that the Japan-EU joint statement will also reiterate their common position that the new WTO round should be as comprehensive as possible in coverage. The United States has insisted on limiting the coverage of the new round to a few sectors, including the so-called built-in agenda of agriculture and services, in which that country has a strong competitive advantage on the global marketplace. The sources said that the Japan-EU joint statement will also reiterate their argument that the “multifunctionality” of agriculture, including environmental protection, should be taken into account in the new round of talks and that international antidumping rules should also be reviewed in the round. The U.S., backed by Australia and other major farm-exporting countries, is opposed to the idea of taking into account the multifunctionality of agriculture. The U.S. also vehemently objects to reviewing international antidumping rules. In the face of strong pressure from labor unions and environmentalists, U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration insisted at the Seattle meeting that labor and environmental issues should be dealt with during the new WTO round. The sources said that the Japan-EU joint statement will also stress the need for industrialized countries to take measures to help developing countries that will face difficulties in further trade liberalization. The sources said that in view of the failure of the WTO meeting in Seattle, the document will emphasize the importance of making the management and operations of the WTO more transparent, and also promoting dialogue with the nongovernment sector, including nongovernmental organizations. The Geneva-based WTO succeeded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in January 1995 as a new and more powerful watchdog on international commerce.
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