GENERAL Chamber of Commerce director Ian Christie has welcomed this week's renewed start to multilateral negotiations on the flagging General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - although he is not optimistic that the trade pact can be sewn up by the American deadline of December 15. GATT director-general Peter Sutherland described the task for the 114 member nations as an ''acid test of world leadership''. Mr Christie said: ''Of course we are fully supportive, and endorse everything Mr Sutherland says. It is a test of world leadership and Hongkong as an open economy and free port should do its utmost to persuade the other contracting parties of GATT to ensure the success of the Uruguay Round.'' He added: ''I don't like to be a second Dr Doom, but I'm afraid if I had to bet, it would be against completion this year.'' Mr Sutherland yesterday praised the heads of the world's main industrialised nations for reaching agreement on slashing import tariffs at their summit last week, thus kicking the Uruguay Round of talks back into action. Mr Christie said the chamber was strongly behind GATT as the key to a multilateral trade system because trade groupings often led to protectionism. ''The point about a multilateral agreement is that everyone who signs up is within the same rules and knows exactly where they stand. ''Group trade agreements all have their own rules and must be more restrictive than global agreements. We in Hongkong have global partners, and want to be friends with everyone,'' he said. But overcoming the remaining obstacles in time to meet the December 15 deadline, when President Bill Clinton's special negotiating authority expires, could prove ambitious. ''If that [the round] comes unstuck it will be a tremendous loss, particularly of the draft agreement on services - services now making up 80 per cent of Hongkong's GDP. ''But there is so much still to be done in terms of agriculture and services that I think we will be very fortunate to see this in place by the end of the year.''