GENEVA (AP) – Negotiations on a global trade treaty ended in disarray Saturday when major trading nations failed to resolve differences on further lowering barriers to commerce.

More than 60 ministers from nations in the 149-member World Trade Organization had come together after months of failed discussions and missed deadlines to try to break a deadlock over sensitive farm tariffs and subsidies.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy had warned that the weekend talks were the last realistic chance to find agreement on lowering barriers to trade in farm and manufactured goods – a vital step toward a new treaty billed as a recipe for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

Most of the key negotiators spent much of the three-day meeting publicly blaming each other for the failure to move forward. India’s trade minister, Kamal Nath, walked out in disgust.

“The result of these discussions has been pretty clear,” Lamy said. “There has been no progress and therefore we are in a crisis.”

The ministers are slated to meet again later this month, and Lamy said “it is not yet panic,” but conceded that it will take a great effort to close the gaps.

The Doha round of trade talks, named for the Qatari capital where it was launched five years ago, already is two years behind schedule.

Time also is tight because of the 2007 expiration of a law that requires the U.S. Congress to vote yes or no on a deal without being able to make changes. Diplomats say a blueprint must be agreed on this summer so that countries have enough time to review the deal.

World leaders including President Bush have pledged their commitment to the talks, but most countries in Geneva rigidly stuck to the positions they have maintained for months.

Lamy had told ministers before the talks began that a failure to face the “moment of truth” would cost the global economy billions of dollars in lost revenue.

European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson suggested it may be time to consider a meeting of world leaders, echoing earlier calls for a meeting of heads of government to spur progress.

However, world leaders can agree on little without negotiators having reached some common ground.

Developing countries placed the blame for the standoff squarely on the EU and the United States, saying that those wealthy nations were pursuing their own interests and ignoring measures that would alleviate poverty.

As the mainstay of many poor and developing countries, farm trade has been the biggest stumbling block to the talks. Poorer nations face steep tariffs on their exports to several rich nations. Those costs are compounded by subsidies paid to farmers in wealthy countries, which encourage excess production and lead to a swamped market.

The EU and U.S. have said that they will only offer further cuts in support for American and European farmers if major developing countries like Brazil and India allow more foreign competition in their industrial and service sectors.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who leads the WTO’s influential G-20 group of developing countries, described that stance as “politically wrong and morally false.”

The United States said it had already made a “bold” offer to reduce the subsidies it pays its farmers. That had not been matched by similar moves from others, said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

“The experience of the last several days has been somewhat disheartening,” Schwab said when asked about the chances of agreement over the next month.

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Associated Press writer Bradley S. Klapper contributed to this report.

AP-ES-07-01-06 1713EDT


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