World Trade Organisation director general Supachai Panitchpakdi has expressed his sadness at the failure last night (Monday) of negotiators to agree liberalisation targets for the WTO’s three years old agricultural talks.

Member countries had until 31 March to approve so-called modalities, binding global targets for cutting tariffs, quotas and subsidies, which would be realised in detailed bilateral horsetrading over the next two years.

With this deadline being missed, diplomats have until the WTO’s next ministerial summit at Cancun, Mexico, in September, to strike a deal or face potential chaos at this meeting.

“The failure to meet the deadline for agreeing agriculture negotiating modalities is a great disappointment for us all. Negotiators must redouble their efforts in agriculture and all other areas of negotiation,” said Dr Supachai.

Agricultural talks chairman Stuart Harbinson said that the next meetings of the special session of the WTO agricultural committee which is making the key decisions in the negotiations would be on June 26 and 27, and July 16 and 18.

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“Given our failure….to be able to establish modalities, these meetings now have added significance,” he said.