THE UK GOVERNMENT fully supports the European Union's stance on the most recent round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, said Andy Lebrecht, director general for Sustainable Farming, Food and Fisheries, Defra.

Mr Lebrecht said the UK Government's position on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) was that they believed in a multilateral process because it believed it was the best way to get all round benefits for everyone.

"We want to see an ambitious outcome but the negotiations have been inching forwards rather than taking great strides," Mr Lebrecht said at the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) Outlook conference 2006.

He said assessing the impact of the DDA on the red meat sector was a difficult and complex task, but whatever the outcome a great deal would change over a period of five or six years.

However, he said, ending of export subsidies would have a relatively low impact with regards to beef.

"We have a large and growing domestic market and the challenge for the beef sector is to find products to meet that demand. We believe the ending of export subsidies will have limited impact for the sheep meat and pig meat sectors too."

He said it was no surprise that the UK was one if the countries lobbying hard for trade liberalisation saying the UK had benefited from it and depended on it.

The UK Government had hoped that the WTO talks in Hong Kong would have been the moment for some major action and for decisions to be taken and although this had not been achieved, some important progress had been made.

Now, he said, achieving a balance between non agricultural market access (NAMA) and agricultural market access (AMA) in negotiations was critical as the EU and the UK had much to gain from access to non agricultural markets.

He said the Doha agenda required change and managing the transition was key.

It was not an easy time for the red meat industry and there was not a great deal of certainty that could be given to those in the sector, he said.

However, Mr Lebrecht said the Government would continue to inform the industry of the situation as WTO negotiations progressed.

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