WORLD trade talks started in Hong Kong today with the British government pessimistic about the outcome.
Tony Blair has warned it will be a disaster if a deal is not reached on fair trade for the poorest nations, but Trade Secretary Alan Johnson admitted any agreement was unlikely to go far enough.
Mr Johnson and Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett are representing the UK at the World Trade Organisation negotiations.
Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon called on the European Union last night to cut farm subsidies to make them a success.
Wealthy countries had to concede more because poorer nations had not gained much in previous negotiations, Mr McKinnon said.
However, EU Trade Commissioner and ex-Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson said that a breakthrough in Hong Kong was "not possible".
The EU will not make a new offer on agricultural trade beyond the average 46% cut in farm tariffs proposed in October until others move over barriers on services and manufactured goods.