Oct 17, 1991


GENEVA, OCTOBER 16 (CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Consultations are due to resume Wednesday at the GATT in the Uruguay Round negotiations on agriculture, textiles, trade-related intellectual property rights and services amidst some very contradictory reports on prospects of the European Community yielding on agriculture.

The earlier optimistic views of the likely EC movement in agriculture had been based on the reports of the stand of EC Trade Ministers at the Hague last week and the purported change in stand of Germany on agriculture.

But the media reports last week of new German positions on agriculture and Uruguay Round which were based on the remarks of the German Economy Minister Jurgen Mollemann after a cabinet meeting in Bonn have been undercut since then by the German Agriculture Minister Ignaz Kiechle.

While the earlier reports had said that Germany has now broken with France and were ready to cut subsidies and enter into commitments, Kiechle has now come out making clear that he was not going to abandon the German alliance with France nor abandon German farmers.

French media reports quoted French officials as saying that it was still for the American side to show flexibility in every sector of the negotiations, and which they had not done so far, and that as for agriculture, the mandate given to the EC Commission last November still remained valid.

Some EC sources say that part of the confusion for outsiders arises from a misunderstanding of the EC decision-making processes. In agriculture, they said, the mandate en to the EC Commission for the Uruguay Round could only be altered by the EC Council of Agriculture Ministers, and not Trade Ministers, and the Council of Agriculture Ministers could be overruled only by the EC Summit.

In this view, any change in mandate to the EC Commission on agriculture could only come out of the meeting of Agriculture Ministers beginning next Monday and thus this week's consultations in the GATT on agriculture could not make much progress.

Meanwhile, Third World countries are under pressure to negotiate and show "flexibility" in the other areas, particularly new areas like TRIPs. Third World negotiators are being told that if they did not show flexibility, the chairmen of the negotiating groups would produce their own texts which could turn out to be worse for them.

The argument is that if they show flexibility, meaning accept the demands of the U.S., EC and other industrial nations in these, it would strengthen the hands of GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel in producing a "take-it-or-leave-it" text in agriculture where the EC would be forced to yield.

The negotiations have entered a stage where there are pro-forma formal meetings of the negotiating groups, which swiftly adjourn for a smaller caucus to meet and negotiate in each of the areas.