New Offers Advance Farm Talks

New proposals by the European Union and the G-20 group of developing nations pushed major trade powers closer to agreement on farm-market subsidies, but ministers said much work remains if a plan is to be ready for the World Trade Organization summit for December in Hong Kong.

The E.U. offered to reduce the number of products it considers most vulnerable to foreign competition, such as beef and poultry, from 10 percent of its total to 8 percent. The United States is demanding 1 percent.

The G-20, led by Brazil and India, proposed that the United States cut all trade-distorting subsidies by 75 percent -- versus the 60 percent Washington offered on Monday -- and that Japan and the E.U. cut subsidies 75 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Japan said it cannot accept any restrictions on its tariffs.


E.U. Wants Music Copyright Licenses

The European Union called on Europe's music industry to create E.U.-wide copyright licenses for online music, saying it would boost demand for legal downloads.

Music copyrights are collected by national agencies, but the emergence of online music services such as Apple's iTunes has increased demand for a license that covers all 25 E.U. nations.

Apple has to obtain separate licenses for each song in every E.U. country to offer it to all Europeans, which could cost it as much as $571,000 per song, the commission said.

Europe Hopes to Cut Research Gap

The European Commission presented a plan to catch up with the United States and Japan in spending on research and development and to keep at bay rising powers like China and India.

The commission hopes to raise research spending to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2010. European countries devoted 1.9 percent of GDP to research in 2003, compared with 2.59 percent of GDP in the United States and 3.15 percent in Japan.

The plan includes better spending of European Union aid to research firms and schools and boosting intellectual property protection. It also aims to encourage more industry-university partnerships.


E.U. Approves Shipping Deal

European Union antitrust regulators gave conditional approval to the $2 billion purchase of Canadian shipping company CP Ships by German travel company TUI.

The European Commission said TUI must withdraw its Hapag-Lloyd container-shipping business from two liner conferences that operate between Europe and North America.

The merged company would be the fourth-largest shipping operator in the world. The deal still needs regulatory clearance in Canada and the United States.


Lawmaker Probed in Volkswagen Case

Prosecutors investigating suspected fraud at Volkswagen said they are examining whether a federal lawmaker obtained illegal privileges from the German carmaker.

Prosecutors in the western city of Braunschweig said they opened a preliminary investigation against Hans-Juergen Uhl on suspicion he was an accessory to breach of trust. They said they began their probe of Uhl, a member of outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party, after the Berlin parliament raised no objections.

Uhl could not immediately be reached for comment.

Compiled from news service reports.