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1ST LEAD US lashes out at WTO while EU moves towards trade deal with Mercosur By Cecilia Caminos and Juan Garff, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Buenos Aires (dpa) - The United States on Monday sharply criticized the World Trade Organization (WTO), while European and Latin American countries stressed the need for it to be strengthened and the EU moved towards a free trade deal with Mercosur.

WTO members focused on litigation instead of negotiations to obtain advantages, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said at a four-day WTO ministerial conference, which is running in Buenos Aires until Wednesday.

He also said that some wealthier countries were being given unfair advantages by being treated as developing countries.

"We need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO," said Lighthizer.

"We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to a few and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status," added the official, who has previously accused China of distorting markets.

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said multilateral trade should operate within an open economy, calling globalization an "irreversible" trend.

Several European and Latin American countries called for a stronger WTO, with German delegation chief Matthias Machnig saying the organization‘s dispute settlement system should be bolstered to allow it to guarantee equal rights instead of favouring the strongest.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem called for "pragmatism" and warned against blocking negotiations on agricultural subsidies and other issues.

The European Union meanwhile made progress towards a free trade agreement with Mercosur, a Latin American regional bloc of more than 260 million people.

The deal might be signed in Buenos Aires this week or at a Mercosur meeting in Brazil next week, according to Argentinian government sources.

Hurdles still to overcome include the extent of access quotas of Mercosur meat and ethanol into the EU.

"Today more than ever it is necessary to be conscious that each one of us is expected to give in," Argentinian President Mauricio Macri said on opening the WTO meeting.

"We need to send a message to the world that as we face the current challenges, we at the WTO are able to reach agreements," said Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico‘s secretary of economy.

The EU is seeking new markets amid concern that US President Donald Trump‘s protectionism could curtail international trade. Shortly before the Argentina meeting, Japan and the EU finalized a wide-ranging free trade deal.

Rene Mauricio Valdes from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stressed the need to toughen international trade rules to protect the poor.

Forums such as the WTO and the G20 should promote "legal and economic incentives" so that "the financial system does not channel its money flow only to speculation, but to sustainable development," Valdes said.


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