GENEVA (AP) – Senior trade mediators and government negotiators worked into the night Wednesday in an attempt to bridge the divide between rich and poor nations over farm trade liberalization.

The World Trade Organization’s 147 members are trying to reach an agreement by the end of the week to clear the way for sweeping changes in world trade. But mediators said farm trade disagreements are holding up the talks.

“It depends on the (agriculture) session, which is ongoing,” WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told reporters. “I think there’s a limit to their time.”

Negotiators are under pressure to reach a deal quickly because the U.S. presidential elections in November and government changes in other countries will likely put off further talks until next year.

The agreement would form the framework of a legally binding treaty that commits countries to cut import duties and subsidies on farm produce.

Supachai is working on a new proposal with Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima, chairman of WTO’s General Council. They were expected to produce the proposal by early Thursday.

“This document will provide a useful working basis, but a better balance must be struck,” said EU trade chief Pascal Lamy.

Oshima told the heads of WTO delegations that agriculture negotiations were holding up the revised negotiating text.

Five major agricultural producers – the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India and Australia – met for a second day Wednesday, hoping to find a solution to open up farm trade.

The so-called Group of 10 countries that heavily subsidize farmers – which includes Israel, Japan and Switzerland – has said it is worried about being excluded from those discussions. But it expressed hope that negotiations were on track after the collapse of talks in Cancun, Mexico, last September.

“We have the impression that since Cancun certain progress has been made, but there are still several elements of concern,” said Swiss President and Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, who heads the G10.

When asked if the bloc would walk away from the talks if it did not agree with the result, Deiss told reporters it “will depend on the result we get tomorrow morning.”

“In any negotiation you have to accept the possibility of failure,” he added. “We’re not able to say simply that we will accept everything that will come out.”

Developing countries are pushing for concessions from wealthier countries, pointing out that the current talks are part of a “development round” of negotiations. The European Union has expressed concern that its farmers would have to give up more government support than its U.S. rivals.

The EU has agreed to eliminate all export subsidies on farm products and to make big cuts to other subsidies, but only if other rich nations, including the United States, follow suit.

EU trade ministers will vet the final version of the text before allowing the EU’s Lamy to accept it.

WTO members agree in principle that cutting barriers to international trade, such as import taxes and government subsidies, is good for the world economy.

But uncontrolled trade liberalization could have devastating consequences for individual countries, and diplomats are fighting hard to protect national interests.

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AP-ES-07-28-04 1654EDT

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