Trade negotiators debating future levels of tariffs and protectionism in Doha are struggling to reach a compromise agreement ahead of next week's crucial talks in Geneva.
Agricultural subsidies are proving a sticking point in the present round of trade talks, with the US, EU and the 'Group' of 20 major developing countries at an impasse about levels of protective tariffs.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) officials have blamed a reluctance on the part of the EU and the India-led group to match the US' bold reduction by 53 per cent of its domestic farm subsidies, conditional on India reducing its farm tariffs by 66 per cent.
But Brussels has responded by arguing that it is the US which is not compromising enough. Oxfam pointed out that draft papers preparing the agenda for next week's critical talks in Geneva contain 760 brackets – each denoting an area of dispute.
"These papers show a near fatal deadlock in these WTO talks," said Aftab Alam Khan, Action Aid International's head of trade justice campaign.
He warned that a failure to meet agreements next week would delay improvements in developing countries and hinder the fight against global poverty.
The Doha Round was instituted in November 2001 in an attempt to bring down western tariffs on agricultural and manufacturing subsidies, thus helping developing countries.
With only a few months left until 2007, when the organisation's powers of negotiation come to an end, fears that the talks will be unable to help advance an opening-up of global markets are steadily growing.