Trade ministers of the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Community today ended four days of meetings here with general agreement on topics for a new round of global trade negotiations.
Representatives also restated the need to persuade India, Egypt, Brazil and other developing nations to take part in the negotiations, aimed at reducing international trade barriers.
The ministers said today that they had agreed on approaches for talks under the auspices of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) on the topics of investment, intellectual property, tariffs and services.
Other trade issues discussed needed further work, but were not necessarily areas in which there was sharp disagreement, the ministers said. Those areas were subsidies, high technology, dispute settlements and safeguards to handle surges of imports that are not unfairly traded through subsidies or dumping.
"Some of the areas -- we found we did not have unanimity in our thinking on them," said James Kelleher, the Canadian trade minister. "This was good. We realized there are some areas where we have different thinking."
Despite opposition from some countries, the ministers were firm about including service industries in the GATT negotiations.
Some developing nations are trying to stymie the new round of negotiations because they object to the inclusion of services. These countries, led by India, Egypt and Brazil, contend that their service industries are new and need protection, according to European and U.S. government officials. The United States has a strong trade position in services and is trying to break into the markets of Third World and other countries.
On Friday, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter labeled some Third World countries "intransigent" and decried attempts by "this distinct minority" to halt preparatory discussions for the new GATT talks. Yeutter did not specifically name Brazil, India and Egypt, but European officials said those were the countries to which he referred.
Statements about the developing countries today were more conciliatory.
"I'm really quite optimistic about generating broad support within the GATT for a new round. Support not only from the developed countries, such as ourselves, but from the developing countries as well," Yeutter said.
Kelleher said: "Each of us agreed that as we meet with and speak with those developing countries in the next few months, and, indeed, we should attempt to do so on a positive basis . . . , we should try to see what we can do to alleviate those concerns, find out what their problems and fears are and see what we can do to get them on board."
The GATT negotiations have also been jeopardized by the French, who U.S. officials said are fearful that they would face greater competition in agriculture and high technology if new talks were successful. The French prevented officials at the seven-nation economic summit in May from establishing a date for the talks to begin.
The trade ministers said no progress was made here on setting a date.