GENEVA, JULY 7 -- A proposal by the United States to eliminate the world's agricultural subsidies and trade barriers within 10 years was welcomed today by many U.S. negotiating partners as a step forward in multilateral negotiations, a trade source said.
The United States made the proposal Monday at a meeting of the agriculture committee at negotiations taking place under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
The negotiations, dubbed the Uruguay round, were launched last September at a trade ministers' meeting in Punta del Este.
The GATT source, who asked not to be identified, said negotiators at the committee "widely recognized the proposal as being courageous and ambitious." The source said words such as "revolutionary, innovative and historic" were used by a number of speakers to describe the plan.
"Virtually every delegation welcomed the fact that the United States made the proposal," said the source, cautioning that this did not necessarily mean they could support the plan.
Delegations felt that laying down the proposal "carries the round a considerable step forward," as it is the first detailed proposal to be made on agriculture, the source said.
He said all delegations said their reactions were preliminary and that they would consult with their capitals before making formal responses. The agricultural committee meeting ended today.
The European Economic Community, which has its own complex set of agricultural subsidies, said the proposal was important but questioned the realism behind it.
At a press conference, the EEC's chief agriculture negotiator in Geneva, Guy Legras, said a major fault of the U.S. proposal was that it treats the agriculture sector as homogeneous.
Legras said the EEC would make its own proposal on agriculture "as soon as possible."
The GATT source said other questions raised about the U.S. proposal during today's meeting included the scope of products covered, including beverages, forest products and fish as well as food and the absence of references to special or preferential treatment for developing countries.