WASHINGTON -- Chances for reaching a world trade agreement on agriculture before four years of negotiations end next week are "very slim," Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter said yesterday.
"It's impossible today to know whether there will be a satisfactory outcome. All one can do is assess probabilities, and the probabilities for success in agriculture now are very slim," Mr. Yeutter said.
Mr. Yeutter leaves next week for Brussels, Belgium, for what is expected to be the final negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which began four years ago in Uruguay. The roughly 100 member nations to the GATT have set Dec. 7 as the deadline for completing the current round of talks.
Disputes over agricultural subsidies have stymied the member nations. The United States and other agricultural exporting countries have pressed the European Community for an agreement to reduce farm subsidies by 70 percent over the next 10 years, including a 95 percent cut in export subsidies, which help lower the cost of agricultural products sold abroad. The European Community has responded with a plan to cut subsidies by 30 percent, without agreeing to a reduction in export subsidies.
"The European Community has put on the table . . . a position paper that is just grossly inadequate. It's not only unsatisfactory to the United States, it's just as unsatisfactory to almost all of the rest of the world. Unless the Community position changes in a very substantial way over the next few days, I see no realistic opportunity to bring those negotiations to a successful conclusion," Mr. Yeutter said.
Failure to reach a GATT treaty will not have immediate effects, Mr. Yeutter said, but will force nations to establish bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements which are mutually favorable.