Apr 2, 1985


GENEVA, MARCH 30 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN)— The UNCTAD Trade and Development Board ended its 30th session on Saturday morning (0030 GMT), after adopting a number of decisions to strengthen the mandate and work programme in key trade policy areas and in technology.-

The board adopted a programme of further work and studies in the area of protectionism and structural adjustment, on services and role in development process, and on new and emerging technologies and their impact on the export performance as well as the technological development and transformation of the Third World.-

But the Board was unable to adopt any resolution on the debt problems of the poorer countries and its review of the implementation of 1978 special Ministerial Board decisions on ODA debt reliefs.-

With the OECD country group opposing, the Board could not even agree to refer the Group of 77 resolution on the subject for consideration of the next Board meeting in September, leaving the issue for further group consultations.-

The Board also agreed to continue the consultations, through its Interim Committee, on the holding of a Ministerial Board session later this year.-

These and other decisions, provided a boost to the sagging morale of UNCTAD and its staff, which have been the focus of U.S. attacks for over a year.-

With the U.S. in effect renewing its attack at the board, and making clear that its objective is an ideological turnaround by UNCTAD rather than some procedural changes (still being pushed by other OECD countries), the session showed that the Group of 77 was still without an agreed strategy and tactics on how to face the U.S. and its attacks on the UN multilateral system.-

Several members of the group see such a strategy evolving only through a major political thrust from the Group of 77 and the non-aligned movement, and fear that without this, the U.S. and some of its friends in the Industrial Group, would use bilateral pressures to divide and break-up the Third World unity.-

While welcoming the outcome of the Board, the G77 spokesman, Amb. Hortensio Brillantes, underlined the lack of progress on substantive issues, and particularly the group's call voiced at the beginning of the session, for implementation of past agreed policies and commitments.-

Implementation of agreed policies in the integrated programme for commodities, including bringing the common fund into being, GSP schemes and their improvements, the SNPA for LDCs, conclusion of an international code of conduct on transfer of technology, convention on conditions of registration of ships, and ratification of other instruments in international shipping, were some of the actions that could invigorate international cooperation and negotiations.-

Future progress, he said, would need greater dialogue, within and between groups.-

Speaking for the OECD Group, Sweden’s Hans Ewerlof, was pleased with the outcome and hoped that agreements on improved functioning and procedures would invigorate the dialogue.-

The Board's decision on services, where the Board had been mandated by UNCTAD-VI to draw up a work programme in the light of Conference resolutions, called for some additional areas to be covered, in addition to on-going work.-

The services issue has emerged as a key area of difference between the Group of 77 and the OECD, with the U.S. pushing for bringing the issue of "trade in services" within the ambit of GATT, and application of GATT provisions for "liberalising" the trade in services.-

Most Third World countries have challenged GATT jurisdiction in the services area, and have been arguing that UNCTAD, as a universal forum with a wider trade and development mandate and on-going work in services sector (like shipping, insurance and technology), is the best forum for developing any international framework, encompassing trade and development aspects.-

The Board, in a unanimous decision, agreed that ongoing UNCTAD work in specific sectors of services should cover:

-- Definitional aspects of services,

-- Strengthening and refining the data base at the national, regional and international levels, along with methodological improvement in this field,

-- Further in-depth studies of the role of services in the development process to analyse the role of services in the development process, to enable countries to analyse the role of this sector in their economies and its contribution to the development process, and

-- Assist interested member states in their analysis of the role of services in their economies.-

The Group of 77 made clear that future work on services should be aimed at "safeguarding and promoting self-reliance and accelerated process of development".-

This view of the group, put forward in a brief explanation by the G-77 spokesman, Amb. Hortensio Brillantes of Philippines, reflected their view that the call of the U.S. and other Industrial countries, for the Third World countries to "open up their economies to services import", would result in greater dependency development.-

On protectionism and structural adjustment, as a step towards fostering greater transparency, the Board decision called for continuing work on the UNCTAD data base on trade measures, for the circulation of this information to UNCTAD members, and for its updating in the light of their comments.-

An ad hoc intergovernmental group is also to be convened to seek a consensus on the definitions and methodology of the data base, keeping in view the importance of global coverage and objective and balanced treatment, to enable the Board to decide on the dissemination of the inventory of non-tariff barriers.-

The secretariat was also asked to focus on the problems of strengthening the participation of the Third World countries in agro-industrial production and trade, with special attention to the difficulties of the African and least developed countries.

But the decision on the work programme on protectionism, for example, did not mark any advance on the substantive issues of protectionism and implementation of the standstill and rollback commitments of industrial countries, at Belgrade UNCTAD-VI in 1983, since when trade restrictions against the Third World have in fact increased.-

On this, the Board could only recommend that there "should be" a reaffirmation and full implementation of past commitments, and that further liberalisation efforts would be necessary to strengthen the trading system and contribute to a further expansion of trade.-

"Developed countries", the Board recommended, "should effectively fulfil their commitments" on standstill and rollback, work towards reducing and eliminating quantitative restrictions and measures having similar effect, and provide "differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries in the field of international trade" .-

The secretariat analysis for the next annual review by the board on these issues, it was decided, should be in the context of all relevant factors "including a liberal trade regime".-

The OECD Group had opposed the socialist view that the problem should be considered in the context of "an open and multilateral trading system, based upon full respect for the most-favoured-nation and non-discriminatory treatment principles".-

The debate on the issue in the Board's Sessional Committee showed the sharp division between the U.S. and other Industrial countries pushing for a new GATT multilateral round as the only way of reducing protectionism, and the Third World group insisting on its GATT stand that there could be no such round without prior implementation of past commitments by the Industrial countries.-

As India, which is the spokesman of the Third World group in GATT, put it in the Sessional Committee: "if the majority of the non-tariff measures were discriminatory in character and inconsistent with the principles and rules of the multilateral trading system, it was difficult to visualise negotiations of mutual concessions for the removal of such measures".-

"For the dismantling of measures inconsistent with the principles and rules of the multilateral trading system, there could be no question of a contribution from all sides. The contribution had to come from those who had established these measures and intensified them over time".-

On the debt issue, a draft text tabled by the G-77, had called for adoption by the developed donor countries, of concrete financial measures to lighten the burden of bilateral ODA debts.-

These measures, it suggested, should include the writing-off of debt for the least developed countries and those affected by unprecedented drought.-

And for other Third World countries eligible for debt relief under the 1978 resolution, there should be write-off of debt service, with provision for additional cash grants equivalent to ODA debt service, repayment of debt service in local currency and earmarking their proceeds to finance local costs of development projects.-

Another provision also called on the developed donor countries to adopt immediate measures in these areas "in favour of many countries in Africa affected by the drought, particularly to the least developed amongst them".-

G-77 sources said that in the negotiations, the OECD group found itself unable to agree to the debt relief measures focussing on drought-stricken African countries, arguing that while they had provided emergency relief to famine stricken Africa, the issue could not be mixed with up debt relief or making "drought stricken countries" a new category eligible for such debt relief.-