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Thursday, Mar 04, 2004

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US to promote active, comprehensive trade agenda

Our Bureau

New Delhi , March 3

DESPITE the setback to the world trade liberalisation talks at Cancun last September in the WTO Ministerial, the Bush Administration would continue to build on its trade accomplishments by promoting an "active and comprehensive" trade liberalisation agenda, the US Trade Representative (USTR) has said.

By following multiple free trade initiatives, the US is creating "a competition for liberalisation" that provides leverage for greater openness in all negotiations, establishes models that could be used more broadly and gives free trade a "fresh" political impetus, Mr Robert Zoellick said in an overview of the administration's 2004 Trade Policy Agenda, which was sent on March 1 to Congress, accompanied by the 2003 report on trade agreements.

Mr Zoellick said that the initial response to his "common sense" approach to move the WTO negotiations forward has been "very positive" indicating that 2004 need not be a "lost year" for those talks.

In the crucial area of services, the US suggested that Ministers press for meaningful services offers from a majority of WTO members.

On the so-called Singapore issues, the US now suggests proceeding solely with negotiations on trade facilitation.

Addressing the special needs of developing countries, Mr Zoellick said that the US — already the largest single country donor of trade-related technical assistance — would continue to aid the developing world in boosting its trade capacity and integrating trade into development strategies.

In addition, Mr Zoellick cited trade disputes that the US would try to resolve in a way that ensures a level playing field for US interests.

They include disputes with the European Union on agricultural biotechnology products, geographical indications and tax breaks for US exporters ruled by the WTO to be inconsistent with its rules, as well as cases with Mexico regarding telecommunications and rice anti-dumping duties.

In conclusion, Mr Zoellick said America's agenda in 2004 is broad yet simple: to push firmly forward towards the vision set out by President Bush of "a world that trades in freedom".

It is a vision of a world in which a working family could save money on everyday household items because trade agreements have cut hidden import taxes, it added.

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