High-level talks to jump start negotiations on a global trade agreement won't be possible until the end of the year or early next year, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Monday.
Mandelson said he didn't believe a ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization can be scheduled until after the November midterm U.S. congressional elections.
Only then will trade ministers of the 149-nation WTO be able to decide if a resumption is possible of something at the turn of the year or the beginning of next year, Mandelson said.
Mandelson reiterated the EU's stance that the United States blocked the trade talks through reluctance to slash subsidies for American farmers, charges hotly denied by U.S. officials who say the EU hasn't gone far enough on farm subsidies.
We haven't heard anything new since July that would enable us to break the deadlock in these negotiations, Mandelson said.
Later, Mandelson said in a speech that emerging-market nations such as Brazil, China and India must also do more to open up their economies in order for the so-called Doha round of trade talks to move forward.
Brazil, India and China have been cutting their tariffs over the last decade because it makes economic sense, Mandelson said. Doha asks them to take one more step multilaterally.
His comments came after spending two days with international trade officials discussing world commerce at a weekend meeting in Rio de Janeiro hosted by the G-20 group of developing nations, which counts Brazil as one of its leading members.
WTO director general Pascal Lamy on Sunday called the collapse of the trade negotiations a serious accident and said all parties at the Rio meeting supported continuing talks but that he was not sure elements were in place for them to go forward.
The entire process is rapidly running out of time because U.S. President George W. Bush's authority to fast track the trade deal, enabling U.S. envoys to negotiate an agreement that can be submitted to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without amendments, runs out in mid-2007.
To do that, the WTO member nations will have to seal an agreement by March, Lamy said in Rio.
The Doha Round of trade talks, named after the Qatari capital where they began in 2001, has been billed as the development round of the WTO talks and supporters said the talks' success would lift millions out of poverty.
The Rio meeting represented the first time nearly all the parties involved have come together since the Doha talks were suspended.
At the stalled talks in July, Washington offered to reduce the limit for farm subsidies to US$22.5 billion (euro17.7 billion) from its current limit of US$48 billion (euro38 billion), but other nations balked at this offer, saying it did not represent a real reduction. They noted last year's subsidies only totaled US$20 billion (euro16 billion).
G-20 ministers will meet again at the end of October or beginning of November in Geneva.
Developing nations are demanding greater market access for their agricultural products while developed nations complain of barriers in emerging markets for their goods and services.
Powerful farm lobbies in the U.S., Europe and Japan, however, strongly oppose an end to subsidies, a move they fear would leave them unable to compete with the flood of cheap imports.
On Wednesday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will host the heads of states of India and South Africa in Brasilia to discuss strengthening economic links between those countries and South America's Mercosur bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The G-20 was formed in 2003. Its members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, the Philippines, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.