European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, in a veiled warning to France, said the European Union could not seek an exception to rules-based world governance when it comes to trade.
“We can’t defend multilateralism but say that when it comes to trade an exception has to be made and we prefer a unilateral model,” Barroso said in a speech to the European Parliament.
He did not name a country but his comment seemed to reflect concern in Brussels that France has turned more protectionist after President Nicolas Sarkozy took office in May.
Sarkozy has advocated “community preference” in trade—the principle of giving priority to European goods in the European market that applied in the 1960s but was ruled by the European Court of Justice in the 1990s to have no foundation in EU law.
France uses every opportunity to warn the European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, against making any further concessions on agriculture in global trade talks.
Negotiations for a new world trade liberalization pact faltered last month when four global trading powers—the United States, the EU, India and Brazil—failed to reach agreement on the outlines of a grand bargain.
Developing nations accuse Washington and Brussels of refusing to make sufficient cuts in farm subsidies and tariffs while the industrialized nations accuse developing countries of refusing to open their markets for non-farm goods and services.
Barroso told parliament he had appealed strongly to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to help clear the way for a deal in the so-called Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
Hopes for a deal are now pinned on a likely ministerial meeting in September after the heads of key committees at the WTO in Geneva recommend the parameters of a possible compromise. (Reuters)