The chairperson of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Development Round agriculture talks has advised diplomats to hasten their work to meet an unofficial deadline of December 2005 for agreeing firm liberalisation targets.

A WTO ministerial conference will then be held in Hong Kong, when member countries want to strike an already delayed ‘modalities deal’ stipulating the average cut in tariffs and subsidies that governments must make.

According to diplomats, chairperson and New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser has called for a “first approximation” of these “modalities” by July. Leaving technical issues for ministers to resolve would be a mistake, he said at a meeting, adding: “We know what will happen.”