Pascal Lamy head of the World Trade Organization is holding talks to try and salvage the ailing Doha Round of trade liberalization talks that have been stalled for almost a decade.
On Wednesday Lamy received diplomats at hourly intervals in an effort to hear all 153 member countries' views ahead of the Easter break and a grand plenary meeting in Geneva on April 29, when negotiators are expected to declare whether a Doha deal is still achievable.
The interviews follow on several weeks of so-called confessionals to try and bridge the gap between the United States on the one side, and major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil on the other.
The Doha Round, launched in Qatar's capital in 2001, was meant to add billions of dollars to the world economy by stimulating global trade. But the all-or-nothing format of the negotiations appears increasingly heading toward nothing.
We are now in a very difficult situation and our ability to conclude the round this year might seriously be in question, a group of 13 middleweight trading powers wrote in an open letter last week.
We believe that a deal is achievable, said the group, which included Indonesia, Australia and Switzerland. We believe a deal is also worth fighting for, both in its own right, and in the longer-term interests of the multilateral trading system upon which we all so heavily rely.
Others, like EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, signalled the world should prepare for a possible collapse of the round. There is no reason to be optimistic at this moment in time, De Gucht told European lawmakers earlier this month, adding that if Doha talks fail there should be a Plan B.
He offered no details on what the alternatives to Doha could be, but the EU has been busily pursuing free trade agreements with countries in Asia and Latin America.