2942 Thursday 29 October 1992


Washington, Oct 27 (IPS) -- US President George Bush said Tuesday he remained "confident" that a successful end to the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations remains possible.

Speaking at a public meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, Bush cited the delay over an accord on reducing food subsidies in the seven- year-old talks. He blamed the delay on France and the close vote there this month on approving the proposed Maastricht Treaty for the consolidation of the unity of the European Community (EC).

Bush warned that if the EC failed to "open up these markets, then we are going to have to insist on our rights".

Despite these problems, however, Bush said: "I am convinced that we can move forward and get a GATT agreement" Bush's remarks came amid strong signs of stepped-up efforts by the Bush administration to get a deal on subsidies in the very near future, if possible before the Nov. 3 elections here.

A last-minute GATT agreement could still aid Bush's effort to win a second term, although most

political analysts here say GATT, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) concluded earlier this fall, is unlikely to sway large numbers of voters.

Bush is trailing Democratic challenger Bill Clinton -- who also supports a GATT agreement -- by a margin of around 10 percentage points in national polls.

On Monday, the Clinton campaign angrily denied reports in a conservative British newspaper that an unnamed policy adviser had met with top EC officials recently in order to warn them against concluding an agreement before the election.

Kevin Nealer, a Washington consultant who has no formal tie to the Clinton campaign, also came forward Monday to say that he was probably the person referred to in the report by the Daily Telegraph. He also denied the charge, saying that EC officials in favour of delaying a deal may have put out the story.

Indications of a renewed US drive for an accord included an apparent delay in the administration's alleged plan to impose two billion dollars in punitive tariffs on EC agricultural exports and the reduction for now of its scope to only about 350 million dollars on mainly French wines and cheeses.

US Agriculture Secretary Ed Madigan and his EC counterpart, Roy MacSharry will meet here in New York Wednesday. The White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who also heads Bush's reelection campaign, has reportedly taken a more assertive role in coordinating the US side in the negotiations.

France, where the government of President Francois Mitterrand is said to be worried about the political consequences of an agreement that would cut farm subsidies, is seen here as the major obstacle to a quick accord.

Washington, claiming the backing of almost all GATT members outside the EC, is demanding that the EC reduce its 'maintenance prices' for all farm products by 20 percent and its subsidies budget by 36 percent over six years.

It also demands a 24-percent reduction in the volume of subsidised agricultural exports. And it also contends that the EC subsidies of its exports of oilseeds used in animal feed has cost US farmers some two billion dollars a year. Washington plans to retaliate against French exports over the oilseeds issue -- a strategy which it hopes will increase pressure on Paris to go along with a GATT agreement.

Talking tough on the oilseeds issue is also good politics for Bush. Soyabean farmers are concentrated in key electoral states, such as Ohio and Missouri.

In his remarks Monday, Bush said a GATT agreement is "the best way to help Third World countries" -- which he said "are suffering the most".