Indian minister: WTO agreement at Hong Kong may not be possible

The World Trade Organization may not be able to achieve the goals it has set for a new trade treaty when ministers meet in Hong Kong later this year, the Indian commerce minister said Monday.

"With the few days left, with the vastness of what is on the table, we may not be having" the complete blueprint that was planned, Kamal Nath told reporters following a meeting of key trade negotiators.

Ministers from the 148 WTO members meet in Hong Kong Dec. 13-18 aiming to create a detailed framework for a major trade treaty that would lower import barriers and reduce subsidies. But major differences exist in areas including agriculture and market access for manufactured goods.

"It isn't that Hong Kong is going to be a failure. We are tempering expectations based upon the timing and the intricacy," said Nath, who chaired the meeting of ministers from India, the United States, the European Union, Brazil and Japan.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim added that even if governments didn't reach agreement in Hong Kong, they weren't lowering their sights for the trade negotiations as a whole.

"We will not lower the level of ambition of the round. If necessary we may lower the level of expectation for Hong Kong," he said, AP reported. V.A.

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