WTO Talks On Brink Of Collapse

GENEVA -- Talks to rescue a world trade deal were close to collapse on Tuesday over measures intended to help poor countries protect their farmers, trade officials said.

Developing countries like China and India are at loggerheads with food exporters like the United States over the issue of safeguards against food import surges, and differences on several other fundamental parts of a deal are also unresolved.

Ministers were mulling a new compromise proposal on the safeguards as talks entered their ninth day -- the longest WTO ministerial-level meeting, trade officials said.

Failure remained a real possibility.

"If people don't want this deal, there's no better deal coming along, and we just have to consider, if this fails, what they will lose," European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters on his way into the negotiations.

The talks aimed at salvaging the 7-year-old Doha trade round had been "a minute away" from being called off in the early hours of Tuesday over safeguards, one trade official said, but there was no sign of agreement over the new compromise.

Adding to concerns that compromises made last week to could disintegrate, nine EU states -- a third of the total and including France -- demanded better terms for the bloc on Monday.

France has warned that a final deal based on the current proposals might be rejected next year by European capitals.