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EU trade chief warns BRIC favours no longer 'make sense'

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(STRASBOURG) - EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht warned Tuesday that special export favours granted to Brazil, China, India and Russia among scores of fast-growing economies no longer "make sense."

De Gucht told a news conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that countries classified by the World Bank as "higher or upper-middle income countries," also including Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Thailand, are now so well-off that they should be stripped of decades-old EU trade preferences.

"Their income is similar or even higher than that of some EU member states. So we thought that trade preferences did make that much sense any more," De Gucht said after the European Union executive backed his plan to prune radically a decades-old list of General System of Preferences (GSP) beneficiaries.

The Belgian EU commissioner said "the world has changed since this system was introduced in the 1970s and so too has the pattern of international trade. And so should our policies.

"Almost 40 percent of our current preferences benefit Russia, Brazil, China, India, and Thailand -- which no longer need preferences to maintain and build upon their success," he underlined.

The European Commission, whose decision-makers meet in Strasbourg during parliamentary sessions there, wants to cut the number of beneficiaries to "about 80" from 176, although the final list will not be fixed until 2013.

Brussels also wants to hammer home the message that states which respect international human rights norms are more likely to win trade rewards.

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