Mar 5, 1992


GENEVA, 4 MARCH (CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) The setback to President Bush in the U.S. primary elections and the European Community's inability to settle the differences over its agricultural reform have probably made it virtually impossible to stick to the schedules, set by GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel, for concluding the Uruguay Round, according to participants.

The right-wing, protectionist challenger to President George Bush, Pat Buchanan received a 30 percent vote in the Georgia primaries, thus helping to keep alive his presence in the primaries, which go on in the US until the June one in California.

With Bush already revamping his stance to face the Buchanan challenge - as he has done now in going back on tax increases and taking a more pro-right position on economic issues - the chances of U.S. negotiators agreeing to compromises with the Europeans and others to conclude the Round by mid-April, are virtually nil, according to GATT observers here.

As for the EC, where too there is some political paralysis, the French are going to polls in regional elections in two weeks, and no government can be expected to make even the slightest concession before then, EC sources say.

Uruguay Round participants have already missed the 2 March deadline for tabling their "offers" on market access in goods, but this "deadline" was made into a "target" last week by the chairman of that negotiating group.

The details of "offers" and "schedules" are secret in GATT, until they are finalised and multilateralised at the end, but there will be a preliminary review and assessment by the market access group on Thursday.

Officially, there is still talk that, with political. will, the 31 March deadline for filing tariff schedules for industrial and agricultural products, could be met and the Round concluded.

But few agree with it in private.

There are some who suggest that the Round is dead but needs a doctor to pronounce its demise.

Others however underline that international negotiations don't wind up this way, and no one can declare the failure and closure of the Uruguay Round without domestic and international political and economic consequences.

In this view, they think that things would be kept on a low key until participants are ready to pick up the pieces - after the U.S. elections.

GATT officials said Tuesday that they expect countries to table their "offers" and "schedules" by Wednesday or Thursday, when there will be a preliminary review.

However, all the "schedules" are now expected to be at best partial. The U.S. has already said its schedule on industrial products would not be available until negotiations on its option proposal in industrial sectors are complete.

The EC Commission, after the two-day meeting of its Council of Ministers on Agriculture have not been able to receive the okay for presenting its tentative offer - with France reportedly making clear that it would not accept any "offer" involving reduction commitments in terms of export volumes or the minimum three and five percent imports -envisaged under Dunkel's agricultural compromise package.

After the meeting of the Agriculture Ministers in Brussels, the EC Commission and its experts are reported to be revising their tentative offers which they expect to table in Geneva sometime Wednesday.

There are also some basic differences between the EC and U.S. over industrial products - with the U.S. unwilling to cut tariffs on textiles and clothing and some other key sectors.

Any possibles U.S. compromise on these appear ruled out in the context of the U.S. primary elections.

Japan has filed a schedule, but that too is reported to be partial in that it does not embrace the tariffication and reduction commitments on its rice import restrictions. The Dunkel package calls for conversion of all restrictions, quantitative or variable levies, etc., into tariffs and binding them.

With the majors not coming clean and clear, other trading nations too are unwilling to put all their offers on the table.

Some participants expect that in the light of the situation in market access, and after the mid-March review of the situation on initial commitments in services, Dunkel might convene an informal meeting of the heads of delegations to review the situation.