07/29/2008, 00.00
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China and India accused of blocking global trade agreement

The two countries are not agreeing to make significant cuts to their import tariffs on some agricultural and manufactured products. The United States is objecting, but so are some developing countries. Efforts are underway to reach an agreement that would put an end to subsidies and tariffs.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The United States is accusing China and India of not wanting to eliminate tariffs on the import of some industrial and agricultural products, thus blocking the implementation of the Doha agreement of 2001 and ruining the meeting underway since July 21 in Geneva (Switzerland) among the representatives of 30 important members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

U.S. representative David Shark complains that "unless these two members immediately reverse course to become problem solvers rather than obstacles to the round, all of us will leave Geneva empty-handed".

The stated aim of the meeting is to eliminate the subsidies that individual countries give to farmers, and to cut import tariffs on agricultural and manufactured products. The United States, under pressure to cut its farming subsidies and reduce tariffs in industries like automobile and textile production, is asking in exchange that developing countries also open their markets, but India, China, and others respond that this would damage their still unstable economies and push millions of people back into poverty.

Yesterday, Beijing said that import tariffs will not be reduced for three important products - rice, cotton, and sugar. In the days before this, laborious negotiations had provided for a 36% reduction in the tariffs placed on agricultural imports by developing countries, although it left the possibility of keeping these altogether or in part for certain products believed to be of special importance.

China also refused to hold separate negotiations on the proposal to lift tariffs for certain industrial products, to the irritation of Thailand, Taiwan, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

On July 25, the WTO condemned China for imposing high tariffs on the import of automobile parts, higher than the ones for finished vehicles. The United States, Canada, and Europe consider this a protectionist measure, because it favors Chinese products and forces foreign companies to move the production of parts to China. Beijing could appeal, delaying the application of punishment. China's 12 billion-euro automobile market is the third largest after the United States and Japan, and is still supplied to a great extent by imports.

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