Top trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation called for an end to all export subsidies by 2010 and called on countries to open their markets to agricultural goods in stalled World Trade Organization talks.
The export subsidies component is similar to the U.S. proposal. Australia and New Zealand may be impacted the most since their wheat boards are seen as export subsidies.
The 21 members of the APEC forum during the annual summit meeting this week agreed of the importance current trade talks. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said he asked that the nations "become even more engaged in the Doha round - that they be at the table."
Portman says as far as he knows, this was the first ever meeting of APEC senior officials to discuss how the nations can come together as an APEC group in anticipation of the Hong Kong meeting.
"More needs to be done on market access in agriculture to unblock the talks," Portman told reporters on the sidelines of the APEC meetings. "I believe if we can solve the agricultural issues, the other pieces would begin to fall into place fairly quickly."
The European Union has called for progress in other areas before giving up additional market access in agricultural talks. Both export subsidies and reduction in domestic support have made advancements, where market access is still struggling for a negotiation start.
Portman explains that the United States, the Cairns group, the G-20 developing countries, and others have proposals on the table to reduce the barriers to agriculture trade. "But the European Union has not been willing to agree to real changes in market access," he says. "It's not just the European Union. There are some other countries also in the G-10 who are concerned about reducing tariffs."
He says it is unlikely to have a roadmap in Hong Kong, WTO modalities with formulas, and having the numbers of the formulas and services having a process to reduce barriers. "We will not have that unless we make a lot of progress in the next few weeks. The United States will keep pushing hard to try to have as much of a roadmap as possible in Hong Kong," Portman says.