The United States yesterday promised to slash domestic agricultural subsidies by more than 50 per cent to revive stalling global trade liberalisation talks. As trade representatives from the European Union, the US and 15 World Trade Organisation member states met in Zurich, the US said it was prepared to cut its most trade-distorting subsidies by 60 per cent over the next five years, exceeding proposals from the EU last month. The plan also called for a 50 per cent reduction in spending on less distorting agricultural support programmes and demanded developed countries adhere to tariff reductions of up to 90 per cent designed to create more open market access for agricultural products. 'To jumpstart our stalled negotiations, the US is prepared to move, and move aggressively,' trade representative Rob Portman said. 'The US will do its part and more, but consistent with the framework's harmonisation commitment, greater cuts must be required by the European Union and Japan, which have much larger subsidies. 'All countries must also simultaneously deliver real market access.' The outcome of the talks taking place in Switzerland is regarded as crucial to the success of the 148-member ministerial meeting scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in December. WTO director-general Pascal Lamy wants members to reach agreement on about 60 per cent of the issues for there to be any chance of getting the Doha round of trade liberalisation talks back on track in Hong Kong. The long-time sticking point, particularly between the EU and the US, is agriculture subsidies. Following failed talks between the two parties in Paris last month, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the focus would continue to be on agriculture 'not because it is the only subject of negotiation in this round but [because] it is certainly the most complex, the most challenging and for many, the most politically charged'. According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, subsidies and support programmes amounted to 34 per cent of farm receipts in EU countries last year, against 20 per cent in the US. Both are dwarfed by the more than 60 per cent support paid to farmers in Japan - a stark contrast to the less than 5 per cent subsidies available in Australia and New Zealand. A reduction in subsidies, and of trade tariffs on agricultural products, form the focus of the Doha round aimed at expanding global trade to benefit poorer nations. Reforms to the EU's common agricultural policy in 2003 were aimed at 'decoupling' subsidies from agricultural production, and were claimed to be far less distorting to trade under WTO regulations.