GENEVA — The European Union proposed Monday that countries taking part in the global trade talks agree to cut tariffs on textiles, clothing and footwear to levels close to zero.

Herve Jeanjean, the EU’s lead negotiator on market access, told a World Trade Organization session in Geneva that the EU believes it is time "for a bold initiative that advances meaningful liberalization across all nonagricultural products since they represent over 70 percent of developing country exports.

"The necessary cost for this initiative, political and in terms of economic adjustment, should be borne by partners in accordance with their capacity," he said.?"By developed countries in the first place, together with meaningful contributions by the more advanced developing countries."

Brussels also wants non-tariff barriers in these three product sectors to be substantially reduced and all export restrictions on raw materials to be removed, Jeanjean told?negotiators from the 144 WTO nations.

The EU also proposed that all developed countries "should implement tariff and quota-free access for all products" from the world’s least developed countries.

Jeanjean?suggested this be done for all industrial goods by May, and added that the most developed of the WTO developing countries should join in.

A high-level U.S. trade official said: "We don’t see that happening in the next Congressional cycle. It’s not likely we could do that."

Meanwhile, Japan, in a separate proposal also called Monday for textile and clothing tariffs to be harmonized to lower levels.

Tetsuro Kai, Japan chief market access negotiator, said this harmonization should aim at substantial reductions, not only on tariffs but also for non-tariff barriers.

However, Hideo Suzuki, director of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry told reporters the harmonization proposal by Tokyo "does not include leather and footwear," which, he said, "are sensitive domestically."

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