Ministers agreed in Davos to send their negotiators back to the bargaining table, in hopes that a breakthrough mihgt be clinched before the US trade promotion authority (TPA) expires on 30 June 2007. This "fast-track" authority will be necessary to implement the deal in the US without Congress being able to amend it clause by clause, emptying it of its content.
It is however increasingly unlikely that any deal would be finalised before this date, but US authorities believe that even the new Democratic Congress could renew President Bush’s negotiating authority if there is enough on the table.
The 30 trade ministers voiced optimism that progress could be achieved in the coming months, by focussing on product-by-product negotiations rather than on "top-line numbers" as has been the case so far, according to the International Herald Tribune.
This approach is intended to detract attention from numbers thus far held onto stubbornly by WTO members, such as the US demand that the EU cut its average farm tariffs by 66%; the G20 group of developing countries' request for these to be cut by 54%; Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's claim that he could go to 51% at most, and France's hardline position that the EU's initial proposal of a 39% cut is a "red line".
Ministers would then decide whether the resulting aggregate numbers are worth a final push at a meeting of all WTO members in Geneva.