Jun 19, 1986


GENEVA, JUNE 18 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The Trade and Development Board of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development ended Tuesday night a two-day special meeting, without being able to reach a decision on the venue, dates, and agenda for UNCTAD-VII.

After intense informal negotiations and consultations, the Board authorised the Secretary-General, Kenneth Dadzie, to continue further consultations and report to the 33rd. session of the board, scheduled for September 1-10, when a decision is to be taken.

The difficulties over agreeing on a provisional agenda centre round the efforts of the OECD countries, through a suitably worded agenda, to pre-determine the discussions and the final outcome of the Conference.

The Group of 77, supported by socialists and China, are opposing this and favour a neutral agenda that would leave options open for everyone.

But even the venue issue, which at one stage seemed easy of agreement on the basis of compromise ideas put forward by Cuba and supported by the Latin American Group, could note be clinched, because of the reservations of a few members in the Asian Region of the G77.

According to some third world delegates, part of the reservations is over a genuinely held view that a meeting of UNCTAD in Geneva would be a "non-event" and no different from a Board meeting.

Though no other third world delegation has even put forward its offer to host UNCTAD-VII, according to some G77 sources Singapore wants to do so, but its candidacy will meet with opposition from several others.

In UNCTAD itself, these sources noted, Singapore takes a low profile, but in UNESCO it followed the U.S. in withdrawing from UNESCO, while in GATT it has been supporting the U.S. over a new round and including services and other issues.

The reservations expressed by some within the G77 resulted in Cuba reserving its right to reconsider its position on its conditional offer not to press its invitation to host UNCTAD-VII in Havana.

Behind the problems holding up agreements on the agenda, there are serious substantive political issues of the north-south dialogue and multilateralism, accentuated by a new style of multilateral diplomacy of OECD negotiators, third world diplomats say.

The political issues appear to centre around the U.S. determinations, with acquiescence of some OECD countries and active support from some others, to not only reserve the third world gains in international economic relations over the last two decades, but use international fora to force third world countries to reverse their domestic policies and promote a transnational world order.

These serious political issues have been further exacerbated by the style of diplomacy of some of the OECD negotiators, who have left the impression on some of the third world negotiators of romboist style in multilateral diplomacy.

Whether this aggressive attitude, bordering on discourtesy, to the third world in UNCTAD is merely the style of the country or its representative - Switzerland is the current coordinator of the OECD group in UNCTAD- or something deeper reflective of.

The attitude of the dominant countries within the OECD and needing a confrontationist response, is still being assessed by key third world delegations.

On the venue question, Dadzie reported to the board Tuesday night on his consultations with the U.S. (which had said that it would not participate if UNCTAD-VII were held in Havana), and his own consultations at the highest levels of the Cuban Government.

The Cuban delegation, Dadzie told the board, had advised him last week:

--That his government would be prepared to refrain from insisting on its invitation (to host UNCTAD) at this time,

--That his government would wish to propose that the Conference be held in Geneva, and

--That his government would wish to reiterate its offer to host UNCTAD-VIII, should there be agreed to hold that session in one of the countries of Latin America.

Dadzie told the Board that following further consultations it appeared to him for (...) wide measure of agreement".

That UNCTAD-VII should be held at the U.N. office either at Geneva or Vienna.

Also, in Dadzie's view, there was considerable preference for holding the conference during the second half of 1987, on the understanding that the precise dates and duration would be subject to a decision to be taken in conjunction with decisions on the provisional agenda and the organisation of the conference, taking account of available facilities.

It was also Dadzie's understanding that the Latin American Group had decided to propose that UNCTAD-VIII be held in that region and that Cuba has proposed in that context to host that session.

"It is my impression", Dadzie said, "that these proposals have developed widespread interest including support from many delegations. Nevertheless some delegations are not able at this time to concur with these proposals...and agreement on the proposals over venue of UNCTAD-VII and UNCTAD-VIII is not complete".

"In the circumstances, the Cuban Delegation has advised me that the government of Cuba has reserved the right to reconsider the position conveyed earlier this month".

In the light of Dadzie's report, the Board requested him to hold further consultations and report to the board GATT its next session.

On the agenda, Dadzie had held a round of informal consultations between April and June, and had reported on them to the Board on Monday.

After further consultations at a President's Contact Group, the regional groups had again asked Dadzie to prepare a new paper, in the light of his own oral report to the Board on Monday.

This paper, titled "points of departure for elaboration of the provisional agenda" was given to various regional groups informally on Tuesday morning.

But day-long discussions within groups, and of the President with regional coordinators, showed that the basic difference between the OECD group and others remained unsettled, and the OECD continue to push for an agenda that would predetermine the outcome of UNCTAD-VII.

According to third world sources, the views of the OECD countries, put forward in the contact group by the Swiss delegate Amb. Pierre-Louis Gerard, showed that the group wanted UNCTAD-VII to merely discuss some issues, but not take any concrete actions or decisions on any of key issues in the five areas, listed by Dadzie.

Also, the Swiss delegate made clear that any discussions either of the overall theme at the conference or in any of the individual subjects, would have to focus on domestic policies of the third world, apart from external factors.

And among the subjects, the OECD countries wanted no separate treatment of the Least Developed Countries (LDCS) or review of the Substantial New Programme of Action (SNPA), but wanted the problems of LDCS to be considered on each of the issues before the conference.

As one LDC delegate put it "this was clearly aimed at trying to divide the Group of 77 as between the LDCS and non-LDCS on every issue, while enabling the industrial countries evade any conference review of the SNPA or achieving anything concrete for the LDCS".

Within the G77, the LDCS themselves have rejected such an approach, and have been insisting on not only listing the LDCS as a separate subject for discussion at the conference, but also using it for a review of the SNPA and its implementation.

At the final meeting of the Board Tuesday night, President Jurasz reported that while there had been some progress in the consultations over an agenda, further consultations would be needed, and the UNCTAD Secretary-General should be authorized to conduct this.

The Board agreed to this.

Dadzie's latest paper titled "points of departure", formulated five broad subjects for UNCTAD-VII, with an overall chapeau, "Revitalizing development, accelerating growth and expanding international trade", which in effect would have become the theme of the conference.

Under this theme, Dadzie's paper, had suggested:

"Assessment of global economic trends and of prospects for trade and development, in the light of recent experience and of the impact of longer-term changes in production and consumption; concerted action, based on multilateral approaches, aimed at achieving the above objectives in a predictable, equitable and supportive environment, in respect of key issues selected within the following inter-related areas:

--Financial resources for development and related monetary questions,

--Commodity problems,

--International trade issues,

--Special problems for least developed countries,

--Trade and economic relations among countries having different economic and social systems".