ROME, Nov 13 (Reuters): Top negotiators from the European Union and Brazil said yesterday they had made progress in trying to narrow their differences that are blocking the push for a new world trade deal.
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who last week traded accusations of blame over the impasse, met in Rome for over four hours and said their talks had been "useful" although there was no breakthrough.
Mandelson and Amorim said they wanted to broaden their discussions to again include other ministers from World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries.
"Judging by what we have done this morning, further discussion is very useful and I think that extending the discussion will be more useful still," Mandelson told reporters.
Earlier this week, trade negotiators from around the world conceded that their differences were still too deep for them to settle on a blueprint for a new WTO round when the organisation's nearly 150 members meet next month in Hong Kong.
The meeting between Dec 13 and 18 was previously billed as a deadline for reaching the outline plan, four years after the round was launched to boost the global economy and help farmers in some of the world's poorest countries.
Now the toughest issues are only likely to be thrashed out in 2006, approaching what trade experts say is the real deadline for the round-the expiry in mid-2007 of the US president's authority to do trade deals with minimal Congressional scrutiny.
Brazil-which has a booming agricultural sector-and other nations including the United States and Australia complain that the EU's proposals to cut its barriers for farm imports are too timid.
Brussels insists it has gone as far as it can, given the resistance of some EU members such as France to more concessions.
The EU says the ball is in now in the court of developing countries, led by Brazil, to make an offer on removing barriers for industrial exports and services, the kind of gains that European companies want from the WTO round.
Mandelson said after Saturday's meeting that there had been discussion of a potential offer by Brazil on industrial goods.