6:52 AM Aug 30, 1993


Geneva August 30 (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- While GATT officials were giving Monday the impression that the Uruguay Round negotiations have resumed according to schedule, the general impression was that once again the negotiations have been "frozen", after German Chancellor Kohl's remarks last week on the agriculture issues.

Kohl has followed up his press conference remarks on Thursday with an interview published Sunday in the German press (in the Weltam Sontag newspaper), which suggests that the German Chancellor had not made some off-the-cuff statement at the press conference because of misunderstanding, but that it is a considered position, following from the view that the Bonn-Paris axis is as important for Bonn as for Paris.

Kohl has said in the interview that Germany and France had an interest in attaining an agreement at the GATT, including "the difficult agricultural sector". He has added: "We want to find a balanced compromise in all the areas of negotiations. A position of all or nothing is not moving forward".

In the interview, Kohl has also been quoted as saying "we will carefully study these proposals (for changes in the Blair House accord that Balladur has said the French government would be putting forward) and do everything so that a compromise can be found for GATT to be brought to a successful conclusion".

On Friday, after the media reports of the Kohl's remarks at a press conference with French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, GATT officials were trying to play down the Kohl support to the French position on need for changes in the agriculture compromise, suggesting that Kohl had confused the EC's CAP reform issues with the Blair House accord and that the trade and economic ministries in Bonn would be explaining it all away.

German officials on Friday did try to suggest that the Kohl support to Balladur was less than what it seemed, with German government spokesman, Norbert Schafer, being quoted as saying that Germany was not calling for 'formal renegotiation' of the Blair House accord.

But this could be mere semantics, whether the changes sought would be through formal renengotiation or otherwise, and did not rule out changes being sought, say, in the context of the multilateral talks at the GATT where the Blair House accord has still to be incorporated as changes in the 1991 Dunkel text.

The United States and the other EC members, as also some of the Kohl's coalition partners, have expressed alarm over his remarks, and are expected to bring pressure on the German Chancellor to change his views.

The German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel (who belongs to the Free Democratic Party) has been quoted as saying that the Blair House agreement should not be undone and that while he understood French fears and recognized that an agreement suited to everyone had to be found, "we have no desire just to give in unilaterally to French concerns".

But the German Agriculture Minister Jochen Borchert said in a radio interview that the EC had to verify that the Blair House accord was compatible with the EC's Common Agricultural Policy and "if not, we will certainly have to talk about it all over again".

But whatever the final outcome, it has thrown a spanner into the multilateral talks and has, at the least, created considerable uncertainty about negotiations resuming with vigour after the summer recess and capital based negotiators putting forward "conditional" offers and improvements to expand the market access package and thus provide momentum over the next few weeks.

According to the programme set in July, before the summer recess, bilateral and plurilateral negotiations are due to resume Monday on market access issues, with focus particularly on agriculture.

The TNC is due to meet Tuesday to make an assessment (after the summer recess) and agree upon further details of work, particularly on the Draft text issues.

GATT Director-General, Peter Sutherland is due to visit Bonn and Paris for talks there. These were set before last week's Kohl-Balladur meeting and the Kohl remarks. While he will meeting the German and French ministers, it is not clear whether Sutherland would also be meeting Kohl or Balladur.

But some Third World sources suggest that for all practical purposes, negotiators in Geneva, even when going through the motions of bilateral and plurilateral talks on market access issues, will now be marking time until atleast the 20 September meeting of the EC Council of Ministers and perhaps even the 15 October EC special summit.