The limping world-trade talks are about to receive a sharp prod from Arthur Dunkel, director-general of the 102-member General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade. GATT's Uruguay Round of negotiations stalled in Brussels last December with the European Community pitted against the U. S. and other agricultural exporters. Now, Dunkel plans to present a "take it or leave it" package covering everything from subsidies for farm exports to trade in services and protection of intellectual property, such as patents.

Dunkel's ploy calls for tough political sacrifices: a 30% EC slash in export subsidies for farm products; rice imports, a virtual taboo, by Japan; and U. S. concessions to the Third World on American demands for free trade in services and intellectual-property protection. If major players reject it, the talks will be dead.

Since December, backstage dickering has come close to producing a balanced deal. Dunkel's gamble seems worth taking now because the EC is gearing up to accept farm-subsidy cuts. Besides, Dunkel has to act fast. Otherwise, the GATT talks will expire between a political rock, with the election campaign looming in the U. S., and a hard place, as political crises rumble in key countries such as Italy and France.