World Trade Organisation director general Pascal Lamy has signalled his key ambition for the oncoming WTO summit in Hong Kong is setting a firm deadline for securing agreement on the overall goals of the Doha Development Round agricultural talks.

A deal on these ‘modalities’ has so far proved elusive and is highly unlikely to be achieved in Hong Kong. In his draft ministerial statement for the December 14-18 meeting, Lamy leaves a deadline date blank within brackets, effectively telling trade ministers to fill them in. The director general stressed this was a “first draft”, open to “any possible revision” depending on “further progress towards convergence”.