The chairperson of the World Trade Organisation’s agricultural talks has warned that productive bilateral discussions behind the scenes will be required for the oncoming WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico, to have any chance of striking a ‘modalities’ deal setting the overall goals for the negotiations.

Stuart Harbinson said that agreement was proving "elusive."

At a recent meeting of the talk’s trade negotiations committee, WTO members including the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Japan and Barbados clubbed together to insist that Harbinson’s draft agreement on modalities was not even an adequate basis for serious talks, calling for a substantially rewritten draft.

Brussels’ representative said the EU would go to Cancun with “serious proposals” based on its recent Common Agricultural Policy reforms.