A draft agreement covering reduction of farm subsidies was placed on hold as negotiators at the World Trade Organization's agriculture talks said they needed more time to agree on language on sensitive products with preferential access to markets.
"They need more time because they are making progress," says WTO Chairman Crawford Falconer of New Zealand. "It's not a rejection. It's 'You've taken care of your problems, now take care of mine.'"
Access to foreign markets loopholes seems to be the major sticking point, but other difficulties in the agriculture talks could be ahead.
"Their view was overwhelmingly they need more time, not because they think they have much time... but because they are indeed making progress, they need a bit more time to make sure that progress works," Falconer says. "The sensitive guys know they've got a problem internally, they know that a number of the members have a problem and those members all said... that they will not be satisfied unless progress is made on that sensitive discussion... and that there should be no revised text until that has happened.
The new delays come as negotiators are working against tight deadlines for concluding a trade deal, more than eight years in the making. The delay means that Falconer is unlikely to hold his next round of talks before April 30. That makes it now likely that his revised draft modalities text will not appear until at least May 5.