GENEVA — Crucial talks on reforming international farm trade are deadlocked, jeopardizing an important meeting next month that was to wind up four years of world trade talks, the top official of GATT said Monday.
Hoping to head off a possible breakdown in talks being held under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the world trade body, U.S. Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills and Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter were due to leave for Europe today to try to win fresh concessions from the 12-nation European Community.
But they appear to be fighting a tough battle.
"It is obvious that we are now in a very grave situation," said Arthur Dunkel, director-general of the Geneva-based GATT.
"Until and unless some major political decisions are taken, the negotiations will not move forward," Dunkel told the steering committee of the 105 nations that have been trying to negotiate a series of trade reforms.
"These decisions are therefore urgent and essential and it is not an exaggeration to say that the Brussels meeting is now in jeopardy," he said, of next month's scheduled meeting.
But GATT spokesman David Woods later told a news conference the meeting would still take place, although it is unlikely that a complete trade package can be agreed upon in the scheduled four or five days of talks.
In Brussels, a more upbeat European Community Agriculture Commissioner Ray MacSharry said talks on the EC's farm trade plan had been adjourned but were nowhere near breaking down.
MacSharry told reporters that talks leading to the final session of trade negotiations had been put off because of top level meetings between the EC and the United States later this week.