Brazil proposes to allow duty-free imports from very poor countries

Brazil on Wednesday offered to allow duty-free imports from very poor countries in an apparent move to strengthen the alliance of developing nations within the World Trade Organization. Brazil and other members the South American Mercosur trading bloc are "prepared to move in the direction of duty-free and quota-free access for products coming from least developing countries, especially from Africa," said Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister.

Mercosur comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay with Chile and Bolivia as associate members. Venezuela is in the process of becoming a full member.

Amorim's comments to trade delegates on the second day of the WTO meeting here came after U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman told delegates that Washington would give US$2.7 billion next year in aid to help poor nations strengthen their trading capabilities. The offers came as global trade talks remained deadlocked over the thorny issue of agricultural trade, with the European Union refusing to make greater cuts in protective farm subsidies and tariffs.

Amorim said his offer was keeping in spirit of the current round of trade talks, which were launched four years ago in Qatar's capital, Doha, to particularly address the concerns of poor countries.

Duty-free access is a key demand of so-called least developed countries, which say their businesses, many of them small, should get some preferences to seize opportunities in the world market. Some 32 nations with per capita income of US$750 are members of the WTO.

Amorim also rejected the EU's stance that it won't offer further concessions on lowering agricultural trade barriers unless large developing economies like India, Brazil and China further opened their markets for manufacturing and services.

"Rich countries cannot expect to receive payment for doing what they should have done long ago," Amorim told trade delegates. "The time has come to define a precise and date for export subsidies and other equivalent forms of distorting measures,” reports the AP. I.L.

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