Brussels, April 4:

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson voiced high hopes today for progress in crunch WTO talks with ministers from the Brazil, India and the US later this month in New Delhi.

“These talks are timely and important. If we are to use the remaining window of opportunity open to us, we need to intensify and accelerate the process of negotiation,” Mandelson said. “If we fail, Doha’s prospects for this year will be lost,” he added Ministers from four key trading powers in the WTO will meet in New Delhi on April 11 and 12 to try to try to broker a deal on opening up farm trade as part of the so-called Doha round of free-trade negotiations.

Last month diplomats in Geneva said the minist-ers would focus on agric-ulture in bilateral meetin-gs and possibly in four-w-ay talks.

Ministers from Australia and Japan were expected to join them.Together the six countries represent most of the conflicting interests in the troubled five-year round of negotiations on agriculture: rich and poor natio-ns, economies that rely heavily on farm subsidies, major farm exporters and net importers.

The deadlock over attempts to cut subsidies and import tariffs on farm products is regarded as a major stumbling block in the Doha round of talks on expanding free and fair trade, which also covers industrial goods and services.