Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
In just more than four weeks, trade ministers from the 148 nations of the World Trade Organization will gather in Hong Kong for a summit. The purpose of that high-level meeting is to sign off on a framework for completing trade liberalization talks by the end of 2006.
But the chance of any signatures being collected in Hong Kong is getting remote. U.S. Trade Ambassador Rob Portman says he sees little hope for a breakthrough in the talks, which are deadlocked in large part over the farm subsidies and export credits offered by the world's wealthiest nations.
The outcome of the negotiations is important to American agriculture, which is heavily dependent on exports, as well as the contested subsidies. But pre-summit talks in Europe this week aimed at ensuring success in Hong Kong were anything but fruitful.
Five key players of the 148-member World Trade Organization said they would have to scale down expectations for a crucial trade agreement at their December meeting in Hong Kong. That conclusion comes after the five met this week for last-ditch efforts to hash out disputes over farm subsidies that have blocked progress on a new global trade treaty.
The European Union Trade Commissioner's latest offer is to cut E.U. farm subsidies by an average of 47 percent in return for concessions by WTO trading partners. But he said he would not give in to pressure from the U.S. and other agriculture-exporting nations, to go further to open EU markets to farm products.
The trade representative from France, who is supported by 13 other E.U. members, warned the commissioner to not go too far -- and has threatened to veto any deal to liberalize world trade.
Meanwhile, the commissioner is urging the French public to understand that a successful trade round could boost the global economy by $100 to $300 (B) billion dollars annually.
India's top trade official said he'll urge the U.S. to make deeper cuts in subsidies given to American farmers. He said he wants to ensure that poor nations get the help they need to impove their economies.
WTO Director-General Pacal Lamy has said he would need a tentative draft by mid-November so that governments have enough time to discuss its contents before the six-day Hong Kong summit, slated to begin December 13.