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"Big Divergences" Hamper...

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With little progress from talks on the Doha round on Wednesday that dragged on into the early morning, ambassadors said they expected to know in the coming hours whether there was any point continuing.

"What I see is big divergences still. We'll see during the day if it is possible to bridge these gaps," Argentina's chief negotiator Nestor Stancanelli said as he arrived at World Trade Organisation headquarters on the banks of Lake Geneva.

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The talks are due to end on Saturday but delegates say they will either collapse before then or drag on well into next week.

The so-called "development" round, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, is meant, among other things, to make it easier for developing countries to export farm produce by reducing rich countries' subsidies and import tariffs on agricultural goods.

The United States and the European Union have made offers on agriculture, but are pushing developing countries to open their borders for imports of industrial goods like cars and chemicals, and services like banking and telecommunications.

Without a breakthrough on agriculture and industry before the August summer break, the Doha round risks further months or even years of delays due to next year's changeover in the U.S. White House and at the European Commission.

No Deal?

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned the United States and the EU they risked the round failing unless they improved their offers on farm subsidies and tariffs.

"With no effective reduction in U.S. farm subsidies nor an effective opening of the European farm market, there will be no deal and everyone will have to face their responsibilities," Lula was quoted as saying in Brazil by local media.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab has called on developing countries to move their positions in response to her offer to cap trade-distorting subsidies to U.S. farmers to $15 billion a year, a level many countries still consider too high.

Schwab said a group of key ministers had made "a little progress" at Wednesday's late-night talks, but gave no details.

The ministers from Australia, Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States are due to meet again on Thursday afternoon.

"Collectively we think it's worth continuing to make an effort because there was some progress. There are difficulties too," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said.


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