Chile asks European Union for "free trade"

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos called on the European Union Tuesday to scrap trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and allow developing countries full access to its markets. Commenting on the current global trade talks, Lagos said he would welcome an agreement in Hong Kong in December that would boost free trade, but conceded it will be difficult for Europe to make concessions on farm aid.

"We want free trade. Some kind of a time frame should be set to remove the agriculture subsidies so that we could trade freely among all of us," Lagos said after addressing the European Parliament.

"Our position is nowhere close to the one maintained by Europe. But I agree that it will be difficult for the Europeans to offer more flexibility," he said.

The 148 World Trade Organization members are looking for an outline of a global trade deal by year's end.

The European Union is under pressure to significantly increase its proposed cuts in farm tariffs. The EU has offered cuts of 50 percent on the most protected products, well below the 90 percent the United States has put on the table. The EU has also said that no tariff should exceed 100 percent, but the United States wants that limit to be 75 percent, according to the AP.

Chile is a member of a group of 20 developing nations, the so-called G-20, which demands farm subsidies in rich countries be eliminated within five years.


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