Leadership role

The 'G6' said they would work "with the entire World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership in the best interests of completing the round in the time envisaged."

Earlier, the US called on India and Brazil to assume a leadership role in ending the deadlock over reducing trade barriers.

Susan Schwab, US trade representative, said: "The Doha Round framework provides for a leadership role for the developing countries, especially India and Brazil. That brings new opportunities along with new obligations."

A deal between the two biggest trading powers, the US and EU, and the two leading developing nations, India and Brazil, is seen as crucial to hopes of getting an agreement among the WTO's 150 members.

Schwab told reporters there was now a "sense of urgency" and that discussions were headed in the right direction.

Her comments came as Pascal Lamy, the WTO director general, said in Geneva that expected lower growth in world trade this year should be a spur for all global players to end the impasse in the Doha Round.

Lamy said: "A successful conclusion to the Doha Round holds great potential for boosting growth and alleviating poverty."

US confident

It was the first time the leading trade negotiaters had assembled for talks since the Doha discussions collapsed last July when Washington refused to yield more ground in cutting farm subsidies.

The meetings were also attended by Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, Kamal Nath, the Indian commerce minister and Celso Amorim, the Brazilian foreign minister.

Schwab sought to allay worries that the WTO needed to come up with agreement before the end of June, when the fast-track trade powers of George Bush, the US president, expire.

She said she was confident the US congress would extend Bush's trade promotion authority, allowing him to implement trade deals without Congressional clearance.

"There is no plan B. We have to get an extension," she said.

Mandelson had warned earlier that talks in the Doha Round, launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital, must be accelerated or "Doha's prospects for this year will be lost."

Developing nations are pushing the US and other wealthy nations to slash farm subsidies, while poorer countries are being squeezed to allow more access to their markets.