• Kyodo

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Japan and the European Union agreed Thursday to work together to break the impasse in global trade liberalization talks ahead of a key ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.

Japanese government sources said Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy agreed that some supportive action should be taken to soften the adamant stance of developing countries, which are thought to hold the key to the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

Developing economies are at odds with advanced economies such as the United States and the EU in a number of areas, including crucial agricultural issues.

In her talks with Lamy, Kawaguchi reiterated Japan’s position that it is difficult to accept setting tariff ceilings and expanding import volumes of some sensitive farm trade items, the sources said.

Lamy, the lead negotiator for the 15-nation EU, was quoted as telling Kawaguchi that he understands Japan’s position and that it was taken into account in a joint U.S.-EU proposal made last month to kick-start the stalled WTO farm trade talks.

The U.S. and EU blended their respective proposals into a “hybrid” formula aimed at reducing subsidies to farms and making tariff cuts on a massive scale.

Kawaguchi and Lamy agreed to continue joint efforts in such fields of mutual interest as nonagricultural trade and investment regulations, the sources said.

Lamy asked Kawaguchi for Japan’s support for an EU initiative to better protect certain products carrying names of origin, such as Bordeaux wine, Champagne, Parma ham and Cognac, they said.

Reaching consensus among WTO members at the five-day ministerial meeting that begins Sept. 10 in Cancun, Mexico, is considered key to successfully concluding the Doha Round of trade talks before the end of 2004 deadline.

No budging on rice

Agriculture minister Yoshiyuki Kamei said Friday he has no intention of joining negotiations that could lead to further liberalization of the rice market.

“I have a strong position on this matter,” the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister said.

He was referring to farm trade talks conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organization. Negotiators from WTO member economies are currently discussing ways of adopting a framework for talks on farm trade liberalization, although they have yet to go into any specific farm trade sector.

The United States and the European Union are proposing that an upper limit be set on tariff rates and low-tariff import quotas be expanded.

Kamei said he had strongly insisted Japan could not accept an expansion of import quotas when he met U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in Washington on Wednesday.

The farm minister said he will leave Japan on Sunday to attend a WTO ministerial meeting to be held in Cancun, Mexico, next week. He will return to Tokyo on Sept. 16.