Mandelson sees no decision from WTO powers meeting

Buenos Aires, March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has predicted that a weekend meeting of World Trade Organisation (WTO) powerhouses would fail to nudge stalled global trade talks forward.

Top officials from Brazil, the European Union and the United States meet in Rio de Janeiro on Friday and Saturday to try to narrow differences which are holding up a wider deal on cutting barriers to commerce.

I dont think it would be a decision forthcoming from the talks, Mandelson said at a news conference in Buenos Aires.

Rather, he said, the meeting will be an opportunity to understand the differences that exist among the key players to see how we could narrow the gap between us.

Mandelson will join EU chief Pascal Lamy and US trade representative Rob Portman for the talks hosted by Brazils foreign minister Celso Amorim.

The meeting comes a month before an April 30 deadline to agree on data aimed to conclude their Doha round trade agreement by year-end.

We are now in an important period. I believe the moment of truth is approaching, said Mandelson, who earlier met with several Argentine officials, including economy minister Felisa Miceli.

WTO members, who set the rules of global commerce, launched the Doha round in 2001 with the aim of cutting customs duties, subsidies and other barriers.They also want to use trade to boost the economies of developing countries.