21 March 2000
Chairman row threatens WTO talks

THE formal start of World Trade Organisation talks on liberalising agricultural trade appears to be in jeopardy after members failed to agree on who should chair the discussions.

The EU would not accept the nomination of Brazils WTO ambassador Celso Amorim because Brazil was a member of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters.

The Cairns Group is pushing for an end to other farm subsidies.

The Financial Times reports that this row is another blow for the WTO as it attempts to restore credibility after ministers failed to launch a new global trade round in Seattle last December.

The talks are due to begin on Thursday (23 March), when officials plan to discuss a schedule.

However, without a chairman the meeting cannot start.