GENEVA — Following the collapse of the Cancún trade talks, senior EU negotiators and diplomats said the negotiations will likely remain in limbo at least until the U.S. presidential election in November 2004.

One senior official put it quite bluntly in saying the World Trade Organization talks “have no hope in hell” of finishing by the self-imposed Jan. 1, 2005, deadline.

The initial assessment of some EU envoys was that, assuming the WTO’s 148 member countries manage to revive the talks, the earliest they could be wrapped up would be by the end of 2006.

Both the EU and the European Parliament are expected to carry out an assessment of the Community’s trade stance vis-à-vis the global trade talks next month.

The talks broke down after developing-nation members of the G-22 group walked out early, saying no progress was being made. But a number of senior EU officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the U.S. also should take some of the blame. The officials contended the U.S.’s inflexibility on cotton subsidies following demands by poor cotton-exporting African countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali — contributed to the breakdown.

However, top non-EU trade envoys from developing countries said the U.S. was tough but direct on how much it could move on farm trade issues and instead pointed the finger at Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, as the spoiler.

They blamed Lamy and?his team?for not doing enough diplomatic footwork with poor African nations to prevent the polarization of the talks.

Some trade negotiators, however, said a fair amount of the blame for the Cancún fiasco was due to the brinkmanship by African, Caribbean and Pacific states on the new issues, which ultimately triggered the implosion of the talks.

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