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EU says cannot count on WTO deal in summer

Written by: Staff
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VIENNA, May 13 (Reuters) Differences between leading members in the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Doha round may not be bridged in time for a deal this summer, the European Union's trade chief said on Saturday.

European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said he had ''a good discussion'' with Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim at a summit of EU and Latin American leaders.

''There are gaps still to be bridged. I cannot say at this stage whether that will be possible by the summer but we are resolved to keep working together and with our negotiating partners,'' he told reporters.

The round was launched in 2001 to help developing countries and boost world trade.

But differences remain between leading members of the WTO, chief among them the EU, Brazil and the United States, putting in doubt whether a July deadline for agreement on the most important issues can be met.

Ministers from WTO countries were likely to meet again in June, Mandelson said.

Negotiators say the July deadline is important because a year might be needed to translate any deal into the small print of a final agreement covering thousands of tariff lines in each of the WTO's 149 member countries.

In July 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush is due to lose his powers to sign trade deals without potentially extensive changes being made by the U.S. Congress.

Brazil, emerging as an agricultural powerhouse, wants the EU to improve on its offer to cut farm import tariffs and the United States to go further with plans to reduce farm subsidies.

In turn, the EU and the United States want Brazil and other big developing economies to offer more access to its markets for industrial goods, such as cars or chemicals.

Mandelson left Vienna for meetings in Asia with ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations group (ASEAN).

''We will be discussing primarily the Doha Round and where we cannarrow differences between us,'' he said. ''But we will also be discussing future prospects for a bi-regional EU-ASEAN trade agreement.'' Mandelson has previously said the EU will turn its attention to regional trade deals, especially in Asia where the United States is already negotiating similar agreements, once the WTO round is over.

REUTERS SY PC2146

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