Negotiations between the European Union, the United States and other World Trade Organisation members last week added much-needed momentum to trade liberalisation talks that were in danger of stalling before the 148-member ministerial conference in Hong Kong, WTO director-general Pascal Lamy said yesterday. 'We saw constructive proposals and real numbers in the areas of subsidy reduction and tariff cuts which will allow real negotiations to start,' Mr Lamy said. Both the US and EU offered to reduce trade-distorting payments to farmers and to cut import duties on agricultural goods during talks in Switzerland last week. Talks continue on Wednesday. Mr Lamy also said Hong Kong could see the climax of Saudi Arabia's 12-year application to join the WTO pending the outcome of final talks at the end of the month. 'I believe that we probably can get Saudi Arabia in ... and that's probably all for Hong Kong, so a number of other accessions will have to wait, notably [by] places like Russia,' Mr Lamy said. The key focus for the WTO meeting in December remains reviving the 2001 Doha Development Agenda, which aims to expand free trade for the benefit of poorer nations by reducing tariffs and barriers to trade. Talks broke down in 2003 when members failed to agree on a plan providing freer access for developed countries' industrial goods and services in exchange for the lifting of protectionist tariffs on farm products that would benefit developing nations. Mr Lamy said a successful outcome of the Hong Kong meeting hinged on finding a result acceptable to developing nations. 'The large part of this round is market access and agricultural support,' Mr Lamy said. 'I'm not at all sure we will get there, but I remain convinced it is possible.' 'An ambitious and balanced Hong Kong result in [industrial tariffs] and agriculture will have the effect of galvanising work in other areas including services, trade and the environment, intellectual property and ... anti-dumping,' he said. While agriculture remained the key stumbling block, Mr Lamy acknowledged progress in trade in services had been 'lacklustre', partly due to a negotiating system that many regarded as outdated. However, he ruled out adopting quotas, benchmarks or quantitative targets used for other talks, such as subsidies, because to do so would give member states further opportunity to stall.