WTO chief raises spectre of failure at key trade talks

A key World Trade Organisation summit on dropping barriers to global commerce could fail unless member states stop bickering and strive to find common ground, the body's chief Pascal Lamy warned on Thursday.

"The stark reality is that the current pace of work is largely insufficient to deliver successfully in Bali," Lamy said in a speech to the 158-nation WTO's trade negotiations committee.

While the December summit may seem a long way off, Lamy said, negotiators can not afford any delays.

"Without rapid acceleration and real negotiations, it is highly probable that you will not see the deliverables you desire in Bali," warned Lamy, who steps down in August after two four-year terms.

"We need a change in mind-set. We need to move from 'exploring', 'understanding' and 'discussing' issues to negotiating to close gaps. We need to move from identifying what does not work to finding alternative solutions to gather consensus," he said.

Created in 1995, the WTO monitors its members' trade policies to try to ensure a level playing field, and aims to spur growth by opening markets and removing trade barriers, including subsidies, excessive taxes and regulations.

Its Doha Round of talks was launched in 2001, with the stated goal of harnessing global commerce to development in poorer nations.

But the talks repeatedly have faltered, with obstacles set in particular by China, the European Union, India and the United States.

Arguments have raged over rich nations' support for their farmers and access to their markets for goods from poorer countries, and measures in developing countries which allegedly hamper foreign players' ability to export services and products.

"Those of you who are tempted to engage in blame game at this point do it at your own peril," said Lamy, adding that "the credibility of the multilateral trading system" was at stake.

Amid the WTO deadlock and persistent global economic gloom, the momentum has moved to regional and bilateral deals, such as a planned trans-Atlantic trade pact between the United States and EU.