World Trade Organization members Tuesday kicked off a crunch meeting to decide whether they could put a deal on the table at a make or break summit next month.
WTO chief Roberto Azevedo and trade diplomats were tight-lipped, declining to respond to AFP's questions as they arrived for the last pre-summit session of its ruling body, the General Council, which has been delayed repeatedly.
Azevedo was to brief the council on whether last-ditch, round the clock negotiations had managed to craft an accord to put before trade ministers at the WTO's December 3-6 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Diplomats were to take stock of a 53-page draft accord, seen by AFP, which contained an array of negotiating options that needed honing down.
Negotiators from the WTO's 159 member economies have spent weeks scrambling to bridge bitter differences and try to revive talks on an accord to ease barriers to global commerce.
Azevedo, the Brazilian former trade envoy who was sworn in as WTO director general in September, repeatedly had warned that the negotiating must not be left until the Bali summit.
Bali is seen as perhaps the last chance to revive the WTO's so-called "Doha Round" of talks, launched in 2001 at a summit in Qatar.
The round's goal is to produce a wide-ranging global accord on opening markets and removing trade barriers, with a key goal being to harness international commerce to develop poorer economies.
But the talks have stalled as rich countries, emerging powers and the world's poorest nations spar over the concessions needed.
Negotiators have long ruled out the chances of Bali giving the Doha Round a major shot in the arm, and are instead trying to draw up thematic accords for the summit, which could be fed into a wider package later.
One covers "trade facilitation", which involves simplifying customs procedures in an effort to make commerce smoother, and where divisions centre on the time-lag developing countries would get to fall into line, plus the support they would get from donors to do so.
Another division is over "food security", pushed by India, under which developing countries want to be allowed to subsidise grain stockpiling to help low-income farmers and consumers -- stocks that critics warn could end up on the open market, skewing trade.