Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Sunday, 12 March 2006

Talks fail to end trade stalemate

(L-R) Brazil's Celso Amorim and the EU's Peter Mandelson
Members of the talks remained divided on key issues

Trade chiefs from six of the world's top commercial powers have made some progress but no breakthrough at a two-day meeting in London.

The ministers were trying to move ahead World Trade Organization efforts to break down global trade barriers.

Europe's trade chief Peter Mandelson, who chaired the meeting, said they had "made progress in a number of areas".

But India was more downbeat, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the talks "lacked urgency".

"I think that the click is not yet there to have a deal," Mr Amorim added.

'More to do'

Indian commerce minister Kamal Nath said "more understanding of the opportunities of poorer nations" was needed.

The EU and US have stuck to their inflexible positions... expecting poor countries to move first
Oxfam

But US trade representative Rob Portman said differences had been bridged "across the board".

"We can understand the good, the bad and the ugly of what a potential deal might look like," he added.

Aid groups - who have been urging richer nations to make more concessions to developing ones - were critical of the lack of progress.

"The EU and US have stuck to their inflexible positions... expecting poor countries to move first," Oxfam said.

"In doing so they have put this round in jeopardy."

Deadline looms

The meeting - also involving Japan and Australia - had hoped to produce some agreement on key issues ahead of an April deadline to agree a "roadmap" for a global trade treaty, by early 2007 at the latest.

Correspondents say political decisions are needed that will expose business and farms to more competition from abroad if the negotiations are to conclude.

If there is further delay, it may not get through the US Congress.

Congress has a special procedure for trade deals, which expires in 2007.

However, the EU and US continue to disagree over how far they can go to reduce tariffs on agricultural imports and domestic farm subsidies - a key issue for the world's poorest countries.

Europe wants substantial reductions in tariffs on manufactured goods, and greater priority to be given to freeing-up trade in services such as finance and IT.

Critics say what is currently on offer will do little to combat poverty - one of the main stated aims when the talks began.

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