EC Official Sees Progress On Trade Rift With US

THE European Commission is confident it will be able to solve by Thursday a farm dispute with the United States holding up a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) deal to free world trade, a senior European Community official said yesterday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was up to the Commission, the 12-nation EC's executive, to strike a deal with the US and that French opposition to any agreement would not be a problem at this stage.

"We will make it," the official says, adding that he expects an agreement by Wednesday or Thursday.

France's opposition to a deal will have to be addressed later, the official says, when EC governments have to endorse whatever agreement the European Commission can strike with Washington.

A GATT deal to free up world trade into the next century, which officials say could give the global economy a $200 billion kiss of life, has been held up by long-running fights between the US and the EC over farm subsidies.

Technical negotiations broke down last week, and Washington accused Brussels of sliding back into a harder position ahead of the US presidential election Nov. 3, widely seen as the last deadline for a deal this year.

But the EC official says the two sides' top technical negotiators, Joe O'Mara for the US and Guy Legras for the EC, had been in telephone and fax contact over the weekend after EC Farm Commissioner Ray MacSharry spoke to US Agriculture Secretary Edward Madigan on Friday to revive the negotiations.

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