House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) acknowledged yesterday that it will be impossible to pass trade legislation this year, but said he wants a House-Senate conference committee to finish work on the bill in February.

He made his comment after staff members from House committees working on the gigantic conference, involving 199 members of the House and Senate, agreed at a meeting Wednesday night called by the House Democratic leadership that they would be unable to finish the bill before the Christmas recess. Some staff members reportedly suggested setting a strict Feb. 28 deadline for the conference to report out the bill, which would go to the House floor in mid-March.

Until now, the Democratic congressional leadership had been insisting that there was time to pass a trade bill before Christmas.

But work came to a standstill with the House and Senate leadership, especially House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), tied up with negotiations over a budget reduction package.

"Trade remains a very high priority to me and if time runs out on us this year I would certainly expect us to meet the objective of completing the trade conference in February," Bentsen said.