Geneva, July 24:

Key industrialised and developing nations, including China, were locked in ‘very intensive’ trade talks at the WTO late yesterday with both sides calling for concessions, trade sources said.

The so-called ‘G6+1’ group of the US, EU, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia and China were thrashing out proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock. Talks, aimed at a breakthrough in the Doha trade liberalisation round, were expected to go on until the wee hours, the sources added.

Earlier, WTO head Pascal Lamy conceded progress had been modest so far while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said talks were at ‘the 11th hour’.

Emerging and developed countries have slipped into demanding new moves from each other, with the success of this week’s high-profile gathering hinging on whether they can leave entrenched positions to find common ground.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath offered observers some cause for optimism by praising US attempts to break the deadlock but was quick to add that more was required.

“The first thing we must appreciate is that the US is moving,” he said.

The US and the EU have made opening gambits by offering to reduce trade-distorting assistance to their farmers and are now waiting for steps by developing nations to open their markets to industrial products.

Nath gave no indication he would give ground on industrial products but said he would make a ‘good offer on services’ — the final component of the talks.

WTO has convened a meeting here of about 30 leading trade negotiators this week to map out a deal to conclude the long-delayed Doha round of global trade talks.

The round began in the Qatari capital seven years ago with the aim of helping poor countries take advantage of freer global flow of goods and services. But the Doha deal has since been delayed by disputes between developed and developing nations over subsidies and tariffs for farm and industrial products.

“Progress has been modest until now,” Lamy conceded in comments to the WTO’s 153 members, his spokesman Keith Rockwell said yesterday.

Day before yesterday, the US offered to cut its official aid ceiling for its farmers to $15 billion a year, two billion dollars more than a previous offer, in a bid to spur movement at the WTO talks.

The US overture came after an attempt by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to jolt the talks into movement on Monday with an announcement that the EU was now ready to extend tariff cuts on agricultural products to 60 percent from 54 percent.