Mar 22, 1986


GENEVE, MARCH 20 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – An UNCTAD Committee on Protectionism and Structural adjustment found itself unable Thursday to reach any concrete decisions or conclusions, in the face of the stand of the OECD group of countries who declined to negotiate on proposals of the Group of 77 and could not give any alternative proposals either.

The sessional committee of the trade and development board, which had conducted an annual review of the issues of protectionism and structural adjustment, on the basis of UNCTAD Secretariat documentation’s, concluded its work by adopting a report of its discussions, and annexing the draft resolution of the group of seventy-seven to its report.

Also annexed to the report, was a position paper put forward by the Group B countries at the final stages of the concluding session of the committee.

The Group of 77, in their draft resolution, had suggested that future annual reviews should concentrate on sector specific analysis, choosing sectors of particular export interest to the third world and with the analysis leading to recommendations of concrete trade policy measures to be adopted by the industrial countries.

To strengthen the review and monitoring work in this area, the G77 had also sought setting up of intergovernmental export group to carry out the sector specific analysis and formulate appropriate recommendations, and for the adoption of these recommendations by the board, specifying an agreed time-frame for implementation by countries.

The G77 had also sought dissemination of information contained in UNCTAD’s database on trade measures.

The G77 resolution had also called on the industrial countries to implement their commitments in respect of standstill and rollback of protectionism, end their subsidised exports of agricultural products competing with third world exports, and eliminate their tariff escalation and intensification of non-tariff measures on processed agricultural and agro-based products.

Statements at the final plenary of the committee Thursday evening showed the group B countries had refused to use the G77 text as a basis for negotiations, while the socialists and China had been agreeable to this.

The G77, it was brought out further, had also shown a readiness to accept changes in their text to reflect the concerns of other groups of countries in this area.

Also, until the final session, the group B countries had been unable to formulate any proposals of their own.

It was only at the final plenary meeting, which was repeatedly delayed to secure procedural agreements, the group B countries introduced what was described as "a position paper". Earlier, presumably due to discords among them, the group did not want to formally present the position paper of "elements", but had wanted to merely make a statement, to be annexed to the report and with the same status as draft resolutions before it.

All the other groups refused to agree to this.

The position paper showed that the group B countries wanted the review on protectionism and structural adjustment to be only "general in nature", and the entire UNCTAD exercise to be no more than an exchange of views and experiences of individual countries.

Hungary, speaking for the socialists later pointed out, that protectionism was "country-specific" – specific to the restrictive measures imposed by a particular country and affecting the exports of another country or countries.

The issue could not be discussed in a general way.

The group B position paper also suggested some regression on their part in that there was no categorical reaffirmation of past commitments, and wanted UNCTAD to do no more than general analysis of the issues.

The spokesman for the Group B, W. Goodde of Australia, said the refusal of his group to accept the G77 proposals as basis for negotiations, did not mean they were "insensitive" to difficulties caused by protectionist actions.

The spokesman for the G77, Srirang P. Shukla of India, said the inability of the committee to reach conclusions, and carry the work forward, was a disturbing development "with wider ramifications".

Underscoring need for UNCTAD mechanism to make review more effective (and to which the group B has objected), Shukla pointed out that despite commitments at previous UNCTAD Conferences and board meetings, protectionist measures continued to be applied to sector of critical importance to the third world – agriculture, steel, textiles and clothing, leather and footwear, petrochemicals and consumer electronics.

There had been intensification of such measures in some sectors, and there was "this widening gap between promise and performance".