A senior Chinese trade official on Monday refuted U.S. arguments that its reduction of cotton subsidies should be linked to tariff cuts by developing countries.
"Recently we heard certain absurd arguments that the U.S. reduction of their trade-distorting cotton subsidies would depend on the reduction or even elimination of cotton tariff by developing members including China," said Zhang Xiangchen, head of WTO affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
"It is known to all that trade-distorting subsidies in the WTO are illegal while tariffs are legal measures of protection," Zhang told reporters on the sidelines of WTO ministerial talks aiming to break the deadlock of the Doha Round global trade negotiations.
"The extremely high cotton subsidies by the United States have caused serious damages to cotton farmers in developing countries, including those in Africa and 150 million ones in China," he said.
The United States is not in a position to discuss with developing members on cotton tariff until they eliminate their cotton subsidies as requested by African countries, he added.
Trade and agricultural ministers from 35 major WTO members have been negotiating in Geneva since July 21, trying to make a breakthrough in agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), the two key areas that have blocked the Doha Round from substantial progress in nearly seven years.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said Monday that ministers have made significant progress in the past week and a lot of convergence has emerged.
But quite a few sensitive and crucial issues remain to be resolved, among them U.S. cotton subsidies.
The mini-ministerial meeting was originally scheduled to end on Saturday, but it has been postponed until at least Tuesday or Wednesday, due to remaining sharp differences.
(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2008)