Trade ministers meeting at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Hong Kong last night (18 December) set a tight timetable for agreeing the Doha Development Round’s overall goals on agricultural liberalisation, saying these long discussed ‘modalities’ must be approved by April 30.

WTO director general Pascal Lamy proclaimed: “We have managed to put the Round back on track after a period of hibernation”.

Ministers also agreed food export subsidies and related payments will be abolished by the end of 2013, with “a substantial part” being scrapped well before that.

The summit communiqué confirmed progress made on reducing food production subsidies, confirming that the European Union (EU) will make the deepest cuts, because it makes the highest payments. Less specific, but still important, has been the acceptance that the EU will continue to maintain some high tariffs for “sensitive products”.