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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Mandelson rejects trade criticisms
Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner
Peter Mandelson defended the EU stance in the Doha talks
European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has denied accusations that he has stalled progress in the Doha Round of world trade talks.

The comment came after lobby groups placed an open letter in the Financial Times saying the EU's agenda in the talks was "anti-development".

Signatories including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace wrote: "You do not act in our name."

Mr Mandelson told the BBC they had not followed the negotiations in detail.

The open letter comes as efforts continue to salvage the Doha talks, which are aimed at giving poor countries a greater share in the world trading system by opening up agricultural markets in Western countries.

The talks, which began in 2001 under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), have a practical deadline of the end of 2006 to reach a deal.

The WTO had hoped to agree proposals to cut farm and industrial goods tariffs by a deadline of the end of April.

But for now, the talks are still deadlocked, with the EU and the US both saying that the other side has not gone far enough on agricultural liberalisation.

'Misguided'

"The EU has pressed aggressively for developing countries to open up their industrial and services markets, while refusing to make the necessary changes to stop the damage caused by its own agricultural subsidies regime, " the pressure groups said in their letter.

The letter said the EU's agenda could cause "increased poverty, job losses and environmental destruction around the world".

In response, Mr Mandelson staunchly defended the EU, saying: "Nobody is doing more to open its markets and give aid for trade than the European Union."

The EU trade commissioner told the BBC's World At One programme: "The views expressed in this open letter are very misjudged in my opinion, to the point that serious NGOs like Oxfam refused to sign this letter."

Oxfam, which was asked to sign the letter but declined, said that singling it out was a "diversionary tactic" to avoid addressing the real issues.

Oxfam "wanted the European Union to be clear that in our eyes, the opportunity for a deal on trade is still open".

"The real issue here is the failure of Peter Mandelson and other EU leaders to keep their promises to deliver a trade deal that lifts poor people out of poverty," said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair Campaign.

In April, the Commons International Development Committee, a group of UK MPs, said the EU had made unrealistic demands that poor countries open their markets while protecting their own.


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