European trade chief Peter Mandelson said he would head to Washington later this month as part of attempts to revive the World Trade Organization’s Doha round of trade liberalization talks. Mandelson told the European Parliament he would visit Washington “to meet with figures, personalities on (Capitol) Hill” to discuss the round. He did not comment further.

Mandelson and other trade ministers from influential WTO countries are due to meet in Brazil this weekend to assess the situation with the Doha round.

It was launched nearly five years ago to boost the global economy and fight poverty but the negotiations were suspended in July after key WTO members failed to overcome differences, mainly over agriculture.

Mandelson stuck to his position that the EU had made a bold offer to cut farm import tariffs and that the United States was asking for too much from it and other WTO members.

“We are faced with a lack of what I would call realistic ambition,” he said, adding the positions were “not that far apart to be irreconcilable”.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who is also due to attend the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, has said the EU and other countries fell far short of offering the kind of new market access that would justify a trade deal.

Mandelson reiterated he did not expect real negotiations over the Doha round to resume until after the November congressional elections in the United States.

That leaves only a few months before the expiry in July of the fast-track powers of President George W. Bush to approve trade deals, considered a final deadline for talks. (Reuters)