Canada says "wide gaps" persist in WTO trade talks

Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:34pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada said there is still much work to be done to resolve "wide gaps" in countries' positions in the Doha Round of world trade talks, reacting to new negotiating texts that were circulated in Geneva on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz reaffirmed Ottawa's rejection of calls for it to lower barriers on certain sensitive agricultural products that it wants to protect from foreign competition.

"There is still much work to be done to resolve outstanding issues. Wide gaps continue to separate many countries' negotiating positions," Ritz said in a statement.

The texts released by World Trade Organization mediators are meant to serve as a blueprint for an outline deal to open global trade in agriculture and goods. Ministers will discuss the texts during the week of July 21 in what has been billed as a make-or-break meeting.

Ritz showed no sign of backing down on resistance to opening up Canada's poultry and dairy sectors, as has been proposed in the WTO negotiating texts. Canadian dairy and poultry producers benefit from a decades-old marketing and pricing scheme known as "supply management."

"Canada continues to stand strong for our supply-managed sectors," Ritz said.

"We firmly oppose proposals for any over quota tariff cuts or tariff quota expansion for sensitive products," he said.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway)