European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson has denied accusations that controversial new trade deals will be harmful to developing nations.
Mr Mandelson says the WTO has set the deadline
In a letter to the Guardian, Mr Mandelson said deals being discussed with some 80 former colonies would help a shift from "dependency" to "growth".
But campaign groups, including Oxfam, want talks to continue and say the deals are being rushed through.
The EU has warned that without the new deals, certain nations would miss out.
The EU argued that there were misconceptions about EPAs (economic partnership agreements) and that critics were "complicating the job of those in the regions who want and need them".
Mr Mandelson said: "Calling for an end to Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) negotiations when there is no credible alternative is playing poker with the livelihoods of those we are trying to help."
As for accusations that the EU is trying to hurry through the agreements before the year ends, the EU has said that the World Trade Organization - not it - has set the deadline.
At present, some developing nations are given better trade terms than others, said the EU.
"This is not right morally, nor compatible with international trade rules," the trade commissioner wrote in the Guardian.
He said the EU had pledged to put in place a new system by the end of 2007 for countries outside the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, and that unless it did, the WTO could and would challenge the EU.