Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, on Thursday urged WTO members to work towards a significant global trade agreement at their ministerial conference in Hong Kong next month, even though a full interim deal was now out of reach.

?Obviously there is a risk that by recalibrating Hong Kong we take pressure off the negotiations and start losing precious time,? he told WTO ambassadors in Geneva.??But the deadline of end of 2006 remains.?The question is not to stop walking, but to advance step by step towards Hong Kong.?

The aim should be to try to capture progress in the Doha trade round since a framework was agreed in July 2004 and identify the next steps to reach an interim pact early next year, he said.?

Trade officials said key ministers might meet again this month in another attempt to push the negotiations forward.

In remarks clearly aimed at the European Union and Brazil, which have sparred openly this week, Mr Lamy appealed to the protagonists to recreate a ?negotiating spirit? and abandon ?take-it-or-leave-it attitudes?.

The EU has described its farm tariff offer last month, criticised as inadequate by the US, Brazil and other agricultural exporting nations, as its ?bottom line?.

The 17-strong Cairns Group of agricultural exporters led by Australia on Thursday joined Brazil in blaming Brussels for the failure of this week?s ministerial-level talks.? Mark Vaile, Australia?s trade minister, said the EU could go further on agricultural market access.

?We don?t believe they have reached the limit of their mandate from the member states,? he said.

But Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, again insisted that the EU would not make another offer before Hong Kong and called on emerging economies such as Brazil and India to make concessions in industrial tariffs and services.

?Reciprocation by our partners in the areas of industrial tariffs and services is the bargain lying at the heart of this negotiation.?This is where movement now has to come,? he said yesterday in a speech at the European parliament.

The interim Doha round pact is supposed to set out the precise framework and formulae for cutting agricultural subsidies and tariffs on farm and industrial goods, but translating these into detailed commitments will take months of further work.

Other areas covered by the round include liberalising trade in services, easing customs procedures and revising WTO rules on dumping and other trade remedies.?

The negotiations face an effective end-2006 deadline because the US needs to ratify the final accords before congressional authority for negotiating trade agreements expires in mid-2007.

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