The Round ground to a halt last summer, with the EU blaming the USA for not giving enough away on its trade-distorting domestic supports, and the USA blaming the EU for trying to keep its border tariffs too high.
Since then, discussions have continued at technical level to explore ways of solving the impasse. But now the political heavyweights are getting involved again to try to secure a deal.
The pressure is on because the USA loses its “fast track” negotiating mandate in the summer. This would enable Washington to sign any trade deal off its own bat, without having to consult the US Congress. It is widely accepted that, if congressmen were allowed to pick over the deal, it would never win approval.
At the time the Round stalled in mid-2006, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson was offering to end all EU export refunds, cut its top tariffs (for items like beef, dairy products and sugar) by 60%, and all tariffs by an average of 39%.
But reports in the Financial Times have suggested that the commission is willing to move further towards the US position in a move that will put more pressure on farm prices.