Member governments of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have agreed to embark on two-phase talks to finalise a registration system for geographical indications of wines and spirits.

The talks must meet the 2003 deadline for completing negotiations on a multilateral agreement.

The WTO's TRIPS (trade related aspects of intellectual property rights) council has broadly agreed that a single draft document should be written by early next year, even if this included alternative options.

Firm negotiations would then frame a proposal for agreement by the 2003 WTO summit in Mexico, (for which no date has yet been set).

Battle lines are hardening, with New World wine nations including Canada, Chile and the US stressing that registration of indications such as Champagne should not legally ban their producers from using these descriptions.

Indeed, the TRIPS council heard arguments from Australia that European immigrants had brought winemaking traditions to the southern hemisphere and so their use of the same terms in a new country were "culturally justified."