EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson called on the United States Monday to show joint leadership with Europe in efforts to make progress in world trade talks, especially in opening up farm markets for poorer countries.
Mandelson and EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel head to Washington on Tuesday for talks with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.
"With just weeks to go until the Hong Kong World Trade Organization Ministerial, there is an urgent need for progress," Mandelson said in a statement.
"The EU and U.S. must continue to show leadership and a willingness to make tough decisions on agricultural reform to help the rest of the (trade) round move forward. Real progress in Hong Kong requires ambition and commitment now." The Hong Kong meeting is set for Dec. 13-18.
Fischer Boel said the United States had to follow the EU way in cutting subsidies to its farmers. She said EU reforms allowed deep cuts in "trade-distorting farm support" leading to more competition in the sector.
The so-called "Doha Round" of global trade talks, named after the Qatari capital where they were launched in 2001, is already well behind an original Dec. 2004 deadline.
The round is supposed to address the concerns of developing countries. Trade officials have warned that huge efforts are needed to reach agreements on tariff and agricultural-subsidy reductions before the December WTO meeting.
A WTO conference in Mexico collapsed in 2003, in large part over differences on agricultural policy.