The current trade round, launched more than five years ago in Doha, Qatar, have been stalled since last July after the U.S., the E.U. and other commercial powers were unable to agree on topics such as cutting the amount of support rich countries provide to farmers. Schwab met recently with trade officials from Japan, Brazil, India, Australia and Indonesia, but insists that no real negotiating has begun and that discussions have been limited to technical issues aimed at an eventual resumption of the Doha talks.
France's Trade Minister Christine Lagarde sees little chance of reaching a successful completion to the Doha round of talks and says the upcoming French presidential elections will make it virtually impossible for France to consider any further offers to reduce E.U. subsidies to its agriculture industries.
In the U.S., negotiators are working to complete the trade deal before next July, when President Bush loses his Trade Promotion Authority. Commonly known as "Fast Track," the provision limits Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade agreements.