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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 13:29 GMT
EU 'will not budge on farm deal'
EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson hinted there may be room for manoeuvre on farming
Europe will not be making any new offers on agricultural tariffs and subsidies ahead of world trade talks next month, Peter Mandelson has said.

The EU trade chief said other nations had forced negotiations into a "narrow agriculture silo" and delayed a deal.

World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers are meeting in Hong Kong on 13 December to try to agree a framework for reducing trade barriers.

But rows over the farming sector are threatening to derail any agreement.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Mandelson said he would continue to ask trade negotiators from other countries to improve their offers for the round.

We will certainly need to have some more sessions after Hong Kong at different levels to arrive at (an agreement)
Kamal Nath, Indian trade minister

But he did hint that he may offer a new deal on farming - either at Hong Kong or later - if the "momentum of the negotiation were to accelerate".

Deal barriers

France has been one of the main barriers to an agreement, critics claim, resisting further cuts in EU tariffs and subsidies despite pressure from Europe's biggest trading partners.

"France would be reluctant to embrace any proposal by the European Commission to slash agricultural tariffs if it threatened the European Union's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)," trade minister Christine Lagarde wrote in the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, India's trade minister warned on Monday that a deal was unlikely to emerge from the Hong Kong talks, while adding that the discussions were moving in the right direction.

Kamal Nath told the Associated Press that "divergent and contentious issues" meant a deal in Hong Kong "will not be possible".

"We will certainly need to have some more sessions after Hong Kong at different levels to arrive at (an agreement)," he added.

Mr Nath is meeting Mr Mandelson, US trade representative Rob Portman and Brazil's foreign minister for last-ditch talks in Geneva on Tuesday to try and resolve the farming row which has blocked the talks.

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