It remained uncertain whether a deal on the Doha Round of global trade talks could be reached by the year end, the European Union (EU)'s French presidency said on Monday, citing the U.S. stance as an obstacle.
"The reality is that there is a lot of uncertainty," French Secretary of State for Trade Anne-Marie Idrac told reporters after a meeting with EU trade ministers.
Idrac said although the EU wants a "balanced and ambitious" deal, "there is great uncertainty about the positions that the United States is defending."
The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Saturday issued revised texts for negotiations on agricultural trade and non-agricultural market access (NAMA), the two major issues hindering the Doha Round of global trade talks.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said the new texts should move the negotiations closer to completion, indicating that key WTO ministers could be convened next week to make another attempt for a breakthrough in the Doha Round.
But Idrac appeared not so optimistic.
"The question is very open as to whether it is possible to get an agreement," Idrac said. "It's so open that the WTO's director general has not been able to set a date for a ministerial meeting."
Earlier Monday, the European Commission described the new proposals as "solid texts."
They "represent a good basis for continued discussion and an eventual ministerial meeting," said Peter Power, commission spokesman for trade issues.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also said in London that a deal is within reach in the "next few days."
"We are convinced that a world trade deal that is within our grasps in the next few days, is something that all countries in the world must now push with great priority," Brown told reporters after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The Doha Round trade talks, which started in 2001, have been deadlocked in the past seven years. A key effort to revive the round at the end of July failed again due to a disagreement between the United States and India over a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural products of developing countries.
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton has been pushing hard for a deal by the year end.