PARIS (AP) - The head of the World Trade Organization said Tuesday that the collapse of more than five years of commerce liberalization talks was not a failure, but more like a ''time out.''
''It's a suspension of negotiations,'' WTO director-general Pascal Lamy said on France-Inter radio a day after the talks in Geneva broke down. He said it was too early to ''speak of failure.''
''It's like in basketball, a time out,'' he said, expressing hope that the players would return to the court with new tactics.
''If the consequences are clear to them ... then I think that the American, European and Japanese negotiators could return, with positions a bit more compatible,'' he said.
He refused to pin blame on any one party, after six of the WTO's most powerful members failed to agree on steps toward liberalizing trade in farm and manufactured goods.
The United States blamed the breakdown on Brazil and India for being inflexible on cutting barriers to industrial imports and on the 25-nation European Union for refusing to make deeper cuts in its farm import tariffs. The EU criticized U.S. intransigence over its own agricultural subsidies.
Many in France, too, blamed the United States for the impasse.
''The United States essentially didn't wish to make the slightest movement on their internal support for agriculture,'' French Foreign Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said after the talks, French media reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei called the talks' focus on agricultural issues ''excessive'' and said France hoped countries would return to the negotiating table with ''healthier positions.''
French farmers, however, celebrated the breakdown of talks.
''It is good news for all who think that the world should be in solidarity and have a soul,'' France's main farmers' federation, FNSEA, said in a statement. ''It's bad news for liberals, who are liberal for others but protectionist at home.''
Militant farmer Jose Bove, who is well known for ransacking a McDonald's restaurant in 1999, agreed.
''The egoism of the United States and European Union is at the center of the problem,'' Bove said on France-Inter, criticizing ''the will of these great powers to impose for the benefit of their multinationals their rules of the game that are unacceptable to the majority of people on the planet.''
Lamy said he agreed with Bove on one thing: ''That the rules are not just. If the negotiations fail, they will stay unjust. If we want that to change, we must resume negotiations.''