Apr 24, 1985


GENEVA, APRIL 20 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) In what the group the Group of 77 described as "a breakthrough", the UNCTAD Special Committee on Preferences ended its 13th session Friday night, after adopting agreed conclusions on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).-

The GSP schemes were instituted in the early 1970s as a result of a unanimous decision of UNCTAD-II in New Delhi in 1986, and all the schemes have now been extended till well into the 1990s.-

The Special Committee monitors the implementation of the GSP system, and the various schemes instituted under it.-

This is the first time, since 1980, that an agreement on the GSP schemes could be reached in the Committee.

Ms. Marie Plate of Netherlands, the spokesperson for the OECD countries, also viewed the outcome positively, and noted that "contrary to popular superstition, the 13th session has proved to be a lucky one and we have reached agreed conclusions on a number of important aspects of the GSP".-

In its agreed conclusions, the Committee reaffirmed the generalised, non-discriminatory and non-reciprocal character of the GSP, and noted that the objectives of the GSP were "not fully achieved".-

The Committee recognised "the important role of the GSP as a mechanism to facilitate exports of developing countries, and also to expand international trade, and ... as an important element of international trade".-

The Committee expressed its renewed support for the stated objectives of the GSP, namely, increasing the export earnings of the Third World countries, promoting their industrialisation and accelerating their rates of economic growth, and the important role of the GSP in the "development efforts" of the Third World.-

Linking the GSP, international trade, and debt issues, the Committee recognised also "the crucial importance of the expansion of exports of the indebted countries, in particular for the maintenance of their development momentum and in order to avoid excessive strains on their imports, while at the same time allowing them to service their debts".-

The committee also implicitly recognised that in the various GSP schemes there was not full respect to the character of GSP, and noted the request of the preference-receiving countries "to fully respect the generalised non-discriminatory and non-reciprocal character of the GSP and refrain from excluding beneficiary countries".-

While recognising that "improvements" in the GSP had made, the Committee said the improvements had been "relatively modest in recent years", and urged the preference-giving countries "to continue to make genuine efforts to significantly improve their schemes".-

The "relevant interests" of those Third World countries enjoying special advantages and the need for finding ways and means of protecting their interests should also be taken account.-

The Committee also called on industrial countries, in improving the product coverage of their schemes, "to pay special attention to products not adequately covered by existing schemes in both the agricultural and industrial sectors, and to the products of interest to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), so as to expand the opportunities offered by the scheme".-

The Committee also reaffirmed the Belgrade UNCTAD resolution that the rules of origin (defining the products that qualify for coverage) under GSP schemes should be "further liberalised and harmonised", and their operation simplified.-

The rules of cumulative origin, it added, should also be improved.-

It noted that the adoption of the harmonised commodity description and coding system in the national tariff systems might lead to some changes in tariff rates, product coverage, safeguard limitations and in rules of origin.-

It agreed that in the transposition to the new nomenclature, the overall level of GSP benefits should be maintained, and the transposition of tariff schedules should not hinder preference-giving countries from continuing to examine ways of improving their scheme.-

Preference-giving countries envisaging modifications, the Committee said, should afford adequate opportunities for prompt consultations, upon request, with respect to any difficulty that might arise, as called for under the enabling clause in GATT.-

Special measures were also urged so that the LDCs could derive full benefit from the GSP in accord with the provisions of the substantial new programme of action for LDCs, and of resolutions adopted at UNCTAD-VI in Belgrade in 1983.-

Underlining the need for continued and further technical assistance, the Committee urged all governments, and in particular those of the preference-giving countries, in a position to do so, to make cash contributions to the UNCTAD trust fund so that the multilateral nature of such technical cooperation could be continued beyond l985.-

The UNCTAD officer-in-charge, Alistair McIntyre had told the opening session of the Committee on April 10, that without such cash contributions the current technical assistance activities could not be carried through beyond the end of this year.-

McIntyre had said that in all 250.000 dollars were required for this purpose.-

During the session, Sweden pledged 41.000 dollars over the next two years to finance the technical assistance project.-

Indonesia, which will host a regional GSP office for the Asian and Pacific region, promised an in-kind contribution.-

Speaking for the Group of 77, Ahmad Saker of Syria, hoped that the agreed conclusions would be "only the beginning of a constructive approach, the start of a process which will affect the minds and attitudes of those responsible for implementing the GSP".-

With goodwill, he added, even incomplete agreements could become "lasting achievements", and preference-giving countries should concentrate their efforts on "how to respond in a concrete way to the concerns of developing countries expressed in the agreed conclusions".-

"The issue", Saker said, "is very simple: is the GSP some kind of welfare which developed countries provide or is it an instrument for achieving progress for the benefit of all?".-

"This is the thought I wish to leave in the minds of our colleagues", he added.-

Gongda Zhao of China called on all countries to work together to strengthen the scheme, and stressed the importance of prior consultations before changes were made.-

Simultaneously with the meetings of the Special Committee, 113 bilateral and plurilateral consultations were held on the workings of specific schemes between the preference-giving and preference-receiving countries.-