WORLD trade negotiators yesterday made a glum assessment of the Uruguay Round of trade talks, still paralyzed by differences between the United States and the European Community over farm subsidies.
The head of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Arthur Dunkel, summoned ambassadors at the 108-nation negotiations to a Monday afternoon meeting to take an honest look at the round, which should have finished in December 1990. The Round began in 1986.
"There has to be a breakthrough in agriculture before anything happens," one ambassador said before the meeting. "The round is again hostage to agriculture."
Washington, backed by many other farm-exporting nations, has pressed hard for big reductions on the grounds that subsidies distort trade and cost tens of billions of dollars a year. The EC has fought every reduction tooth-and-nail.
EC and US officials are due to meet this week, probably in London, in a fresh attempt to break the agricultural impasse.
But all eyes are on an April 22 meeting in Washington between President Bush, European Commission President Jacques Delors, and Anibal Cavaco Silva, prime minister of Portugal, which holds the EC's rotating presidency.
"Every time they meet they give the expectation that this is going to be the final breakthrough, and each time that expectation is betrayed," said an Asian diplomat.