BRUSSELS, DEC. 5 -- A crucial round of global free-trade talks turned into a tense confrontation tonight, with the chairman of the 107-nation negotiations demanding that Western Europe offer a new plan to end its farm subsidies by noon Thursday and the Europeans blaming the United States for the deadlock.
In an effort to break the impasse, the chairman of the negotiations, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Hector Gros-Espiell, called for a "new approach" from the 12-nation European Community on the agriculture issue.
Negotiators worked late into the night, but with no success.
The talks are at a "stalemate," U.S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills said as the negotiations ended near midnight. Her sentiments were echoed by EC negotiator Hugo Paemen.
Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Ricupero, representing a group of developing countries, blamed the collapse on Europe's refusal to deal with its $12 billion in annual subsidies to help its farmers sell in foreign markets.
The talks are an effort to liberalize and modernize free-trade rules, known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). GATT Director General Arthur Dunkel said tonight that the meeting had been heated and reported that some countries said it might be better to suspend the talks rather than have them collapse in acrimony.
Against the backdrop of the deadlock in Brussels, French President Francois Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl met tonight in Paris with the trade talks as one item on their agenda.
There were hopes here that the leaders of the two largest EC member states could reach an accommodation tonight that could lead to a shift in the European position on farm trade.
After the talks, a spokesman for Mitterrand said only that France and Germany hope to coordinate their position, the Associated Press reported from Paris.
France, with its millions of small farmers, has taken a hard line on the issue, but it was thought that Germany, a leading industrial exporting nation, might be willing to change. U.S. and German officials have said over the past several months that Kohl promised President Bush to move on the agriculture issue after the German elections, which he won handily Sunday.
German Agriculture Minister Ignaz Kiechle, however, followed the same hard line as the EC spokesman in briefing reporters here tonight.
The stakes are high in the trade talks, which were supposed to expand GATT into areas that did not exist on an international scale when its original rules were set 43 years ago. These new areas -- including high technology, overseas investments and service industries such as banking and insurance -- now account for about one-third of all world trade, or about $1 trillion.
"We are really discussing how we are going to walk out, suspend the talks and when we're going to do it," said a Bush administration official tonight.
But the EC started the finger pointing first.
"The Americans are not serious in the negotiations," said John Cooney, an EC spokesman. "The community feels that the tide is turning in its favor and the United States is isolated tonight."
Nicolas Wegter, another EC spokesman, said the Europeans would stick to their previous offer on farm trade, which the United States and at least a dozen other nations have called unacceptably small. But he insisted that the talks should move forward in other areas and said farm trade was not the only item under discussion.
A GATT official, calling the charge and countercharge "a dirty game," said the EC has been trying to pull support away from the United States by offering special trade deals to some countries. A U.S. official said that Europe offered Colombia liberal trade concessions on imports of cut flowers and coffee -- two of its major exports.
In addition to moving GATT into the 21st century, the trade negotiations are aimed at correcting protectionist holdovers from the past. These include the high farm subsidies, which hurt major agricultural exporting nations such as Argentina and Australia as well as the United States, and restrictions placed by industrialized nations on the textile exports of developing countries.
There has been progress in many of those areas, but final deals depend on the shape of the agriculture agreement, since many nations are making concessions in some sectors to gain more open markets for their farm products.
U.S. and European textile makers, for instance, paced the conference hall here hoping the farm trade stalemate would wreck the talks because they knew any deal would allow greater imports of textiles from Third World and Asian manufacturers.
In the newly emerging sector of trade in services, a deal appeared near in international banking that would allow the Treasury Department and similar ministries a voice in trade disputes that would prevent such disputes from destabilizing global financial flows.
GATT spokesman David Woods said a tentative deal has been reached in opening government procurement in all countries. He added that it looked likely that there would be major cuts in tariffs, starting in 1992.
But he said all these deals are contingent on an agreement on agricultural trade. "I don't think anybody is going to commit themselves to anything when the negotiations are in this stage. I think you can consider the negotiations totally blocked," said Woods.