A crucial bid to salvage the global trade talks was on the edge of failure after four days of negotiations which made little progress, World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy warned Friday.
"If we do not see this rapid progress toward convergence, I am afraid that the deal that you came here for this week will not happen with all the intended consequences," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell quoted Lamy as saying in a briefing to WTO delegations.
"This is the bloody reality," Lamy said. "The situation as I see it is critical, edging between success and failure."
Ministers from three dozen major WTO members were engaged in a week-long effort here to seek a breakthrough in the long-stalled Doha Round of global trade talks, but the negotiations remained deadlocked as the deadline approaches.
Lamy said that although some convergences had been recorded, progress had been "painfully slow" in the last four days of ministerial negotiation. lamy urged delegates to spare no effort to resolve the outstanding issues as the negotiations entered their fifth and final day as planned.
"If the negotiators show no further flexibility to deliver outcomes that take account of different interests in the next hours, we will face the serious consequences of failure," Lamy said. "Time is running out and the next 24 hours are crucial."
The Doha Round of global trade talks, officially launched in 2001, was designed to slash subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to trade so as to help reduce poverty and spur economic growth in developing countries.
However, the round had missed repeated deadlines in the past seven years due mainly to differences between the developing and developed countries over agriculture and non-agricultural market access.
Those differences continued to hinder the latest push by major players in the WTO, which was billed as the last chance to see a conclusion of the Doha Round within this year. Any failure this time would mean a delay of another several years.
"We need to change gears very quickly to turn things around," Lamy said.
The talks over the stalled Doha Round trade negotiations had shown some "encouraging signs" over the past couple of hours, and "interesting proposals" had been put forward, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said later Friday. without giving details.
There had been speculation that the ongoing talks, which were scheduled to conclude on Friday, would drag into next week.
Rockwell said ministers had indicated they were ready to stay longer into next week "if they had indications today that there was progress likely to be made that worth their while."
In order to speed up the negotiations, trade and agricultural ministers from the world's seven trading powers, namely the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, India and China, have been in meetings since Wednesday in their quest for a compromise, but they remained far apart on some key issues.
According to Lamy's arrangement, key WTO members should reach agreement first; and then their agreement would be sent for approval by the full WTO membership. Any member has the power to veto a deal.