Venezuela's Chavez blames U.S., EU for stalling world trade talks

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blamed the United States, European Union and other industrialized countries for stalling world trade talks, accusing them of shamelessly trying to exploit poorer nations. "We poor countries encounter (trade) barriers four times higher than richer countries ... and that's because the rules that the rich have imposed on world trade are a shameless, open and deafening immorality," Chavez said Wednesday after a World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong ended its second day in a deadlock. The leftist Venezuelan leader is one of the region's fiercest critics of trade liberalization policies, saying they are designed to keep developing nations impoverished. He recently helped stall a U.S.-backed proposal to create a hemisphere-wide free trade area in the Americas.

The WTO meeting of 149 nations was meant to produce an outline for a final agreement on cutting trade barriers in agriculture, manufacturing and services. But an impasse over how much to cut rich countries' farm aid, which developing nations say limit their agricultural exports to wealthy markets, threatens to torpedo the entire trade negotiations.

"The United States, the Group of Eight (industrialized nations) and the European Union, what they do is increase barriers on international trade, while demanding we eliminate barriers," Chavez said during a ceremony at Miraflores Palace. The six-day WTO meeting is scheduled to close Sunday, reports the AP. I.L.

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