Bush offers to drop trade barriers

Eager to salvage troubled global free-trade talks, U.S. President George W. Bush has promised to scrap all subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers if other countries do the same.

The sweeping challenge, delivered yesterday in a speech to the United Nations in New York, comes amid growing pessimism that negotiators will reach a deal as planned in December.

Mr. Bush promised earlier this year to get rid of all U.S. farm subsidies on a reciprocal basis. But this latest vow goes several steps further, suggesting the United States is ready to offer unrestricted free trade in goods and services to all comers.

"The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to the free flow of goods and services, as other nations do the same," he told the UN World Summit, reports Globe and Mail.

According to Washington Post, "I strongly endorse the spirit of (Bush's) remarks and I think that it's important that somebody like the president should give this amount of attention to the round," European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters after meetings in Washington on farm trade.

The United States and the European Union both generously subsidize their farmers, but are striving to reach agreement in coming months on how far to cut their subsidies and tariffs.

How much other countries, such as Brazil and India, are willing to scale back their own protection for farmers will also be an important element of final WTO deal.

"It's rhetorical but it's important as a political signal that the president is willing to push the envelope on trade further than the conventional wisdom of the Congress," said Jeffrey Schott, senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think-tank.

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