- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

GENEVA (AP) — Five key members of the World Trade Organization sought yesterday to keep global talks alive, but they made clear that an agreement will probably not be reached at a major meeting in Hong Kong next month and negotiations will continue through next year.

“We want Hong Kong to be more than treading water,” said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson after the one-day session that included ministers from Brazil, India, Japan and the United States. “It should lock in the progress made here and put in place, as far as possible, a springboard for advance in 2006.”

But he said the five ministers had to temper their ambition with realism.

Hong Kong was supposed to be the concluding session of the current round of global talks that have been under way for four years, but the ministers made it clear that they are now looking forward to the end of 2006, which they regard as the new deadline for a deal.

“Hong Kong should be a building block on the road,” Indian Commerce Minster Kamal Nath said. “We have agreed to try and bridge our differences in the course of the next weeks to Hong Kong and thereafter.”

“We are trying to inch forward,” Mr. Nath said.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who just returned from the Asia-Pacific summit and meetings with African leaders, hosted the meeting at the U.S. Mission to international organizations in Geneva.

WTO members have been edging closer to one another on the politically sensitive question of reducing farm support programs — long the sticking point in the Doha round of trade talks.

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