Mandelson questions Bush’s offer to scrap US trade subsidies

European trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has derided George Bush’s offer to scrap US trade subsidies and tariffs as “lavish promises” that are unlikely to materialise.

Mr Mandelson’s remarks were made in an interview on Thurs (15 Sept) on BBC radio a day after his American counterpart Rob Portman had said the two should work together to resolve their differences on agricultural subsidies that have stalled the progress of the Doha round of world trade talks.

Speaking at the United Nations summit on Wednesday (14 Sept) President Bush reaffirmed his willingness to scrap all subsidies, tariffs and other measures that block the free flow of goods around the world so long as other nations followed suit.

“I very much welcome the high level of ambition that President Bush has expressed,” said Mr Mandelson.

But he added: “It is easy to make these grandiose commitments, and some will say he is playing to the gallery, and some will say that he is making these sort of lavish promises in the almost certain knowledge that the rest of the world cannot or won’t follow suit and therefore he will get a free pass.”

Pascal Lamy, Mr Mandelson’s predecessor as EU trade commissioner and now new head of the World Trade Organisation warned earlier this week that failure to reach agreement on agriculture would hamper agreement on other important issues.