On Friday European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters that 2008 is the last chance for the foreseeable future to achieve a World Trade Organization trade deal that has floundered since talks began in November 2001. He pointed out that with a new U.S. administration taking over in the first half and change to the European Commission in the second half, 2009 is basically a dead year.
"That will take us to 2010," Mandelson says. "My fear would be that by then what's on the table, which is very substantial, will have largely turned to mush and I think many of the developing countries will have marched off from the table so we're facing a very, very urgent time limit now."
Mandelson says the agreements that are on the table are substantial, not only in agriculture but for several other areas, although he concedes that a lot of work remains in tariffs and industrial goods.
"If we miss the opportunity to achieve that and to seal that deal it will represent a huge loss to developing countries. It will also deliver a considerable setback to the WTO." Mandelson says. "It would be irresponsible and verging on the criminal if we were to allow this opportunity to slip from our grasp."