Jul 28, 1987

UNCTAD-VII: IN FINAL WEEK, CONFERENCE IN BAD SHAPES.

GENEVA, JULY 25 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Ė As the Seventh Session of UN conference on Trade and Development moved into its final week, only one of the committees, that on trade, was able to complete its work by Saturday evening deadline, and that too only "technically".

The other three Ė those on resources, commodities, and least developed countries (LDCS) Ė found negotiations either making no progress or regressing, and sought time till Monday afternoon to complete their work.

The Conference President agreed to this, and asked them to finish their work by Monday lunch time.

On Friday, all the four Committees had been given time till Saturday evening to complete their works, and remit to the Presidentís contact group, along with their reports, any of the outstanding issues.

The Committee on trade, where there had been in substance no negotiations, completed its work "elegantly". Negotiators acknowledged privately that no serious negotiations were likely except in the Presidentís Contact Group, and that too only as part of an overall package involving the other Committee issues also, and discussions in the Committee would be merely time-consuming without any progress.

As a result, the Committee agreed to the chairman, Amb. Chak Mun See of Singapore, remitting to the Presidentís Contact Group on his own authority a revised text he had produced friday night.

The detailed proposals of the Group of 77 (made at Havana), as well as a position-cum-proposal paper, put forward by the Group B countries as a conference room document, were annexed to the report of the Committee.

Remarks of the spokesmen of the Group B, G77, socialists and China in the final Plenary of the Committee showed that they panned to use the chairmanís text as the basis for further negotiations in the Presidentís Contact Group, but maintaining their own proposals.

In the Committee on LDCS, where everyone has been expecting something to come out of the Conference, there was the greatest regression by Saturday evening, Conference sources reports.

The chairman of the Committee, Amb. Martin Huslid of Norway had formulated a draft on July 22 (as requested by the Group B countries themselves), basing his draft on the proposals of the G77 and the viewpoints advanced in the Committee by various Group B countries.

After four days of intense discussions of the paper, by late Saturday evening, Netherlands as spokesman of the Group B suddenly said in the Chairmanís contact Group, that the chairmanís text had gone "in the wrong direction" and could not even be the basis for further negotiations, and suggested they would produce their own paper by Monday.

Some LDC members speculated that the Group B countries, having failed to break the unity of the G77 and the LDCS within the Committee, on such issues as "market-oriented domestic policy" and "differentiation", suddenly stiffened their stand to the point that they opposed even mere repetition of the language contained in the substantial new programme of action (SNPA).

There was some speculation that the Group B stand on LDCS is essentially tactical, to enable them to make some "concessions" at the last minutes of the Conference on this issue, and wrap up the Conference on that basis, without yielding anything on any of the other issues, beyond exhortatory statements.

When the Committee adjourned, it had not even been able to complete a first reading of the chairmanís text.

In the Committee on resources, after day long discussions in an open-ended drafting group on a revised chairmanís text, some minor progress was reportedly made on the debt question, but with disagreement on most of the major issues.

The revised text of Chairman Makato Taniguchi of Japan, contained no new basic proposals or ideas, but appeared to have improved the language or tightened up the formulations to meet some of the viewpoints.

In the Committee on Commodities too, the Group B countries put forward so many amendments and changes to the chairmanís draft and put so many formulations within square brackets (indicating non-agreement), that an exasperated G77 spokesman reportedly said at one stage "why only one square bracket, you should put three".

In essence, the Group B was trying to use the outcome of the Committee to virtually abandon the integrated programme for commodities and its market intervention approaches, even when continuing to talk of the validity of the IPC objectives.

The Bureau of the Committee is expected to meet Sunday, where the chairman, Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay, is expected to attempt to produce a revised draft to see whether it would command enough acceptance from all the groups, or at least persuade them to accept substantial parts of it, leaving only a few knotty issues to be tackled in the Presidentís Contact Group.

Conference sources said Saturday night that overall the Conference was in bad shape, and the Presidentís Contact Group would be seized of all the issues in all the Committees.

This would really mean that the Presidentís Contact Group would now be seized of the "texts" or "non-paper" put forward in each of the Committees by the chairmen, as well as proposals for policy measures and actions, put forward by the G77 at their Havana meeting, the various Conference room papers tabled by the Group B countries, as well as proposals from the socialist countries and China.

The Contact Group will also be seized of the texts of the various groups on the "assessment", as well as a text put forward by the president of the Trade and Development board summing up the outcome of the informal consultations he had organised.

With hardly a week left, it was unclear how all these negotiations are going to be handled in the Presidentís Contact Group, and what the final outcome could be Ė whether there will be some positive decisions and recommendations on policy measures, or whether the Group B countries might still succeed in ending UNCTAD with their objective of "a communique-type" conclusion, as after the western summit meetings or the annual OECD meetings in Paris.

The G77 is still to decide on their own strategy in this regard, but there is a strong undercurrent within the group not to allow an outcome of the type favoured by the U.S. and its friends.

It is not clear at this stage whether this would mean that the G77 would have their proposals referred to UNCTADís permanent machinery, or adopt any other variant of this type (including a simple adjournment of the Conference), or "vote" some of their proposals through.

Most of the members are anxious not to do anything that would further harm UNCTAD as an institution, but they are also clear that there could be no strengthening of UNCTAD by merely bowing to the OECD views and agreeing, implicitly, to a reduced UNCTAD role as an intergovernmental negotiating forum.

On Friday, the Group of 77 after a meeting to assess the progress of work and negotiations at the Conference, decided to ask for the remittal to the Presidentís Contact Group of their own Havana proposals in each of the areas: resources for development. Including related monetary questions, commodities, trade, and least developed countries (LDCS).

The group heard brief reports from their spokesmen of the state of play in each of the Committees.

The spokesmen reported that while there had been discussions on policies and measures in their Committees, in practice it had been at too vague and general a level, without any real engagement in negotiations, and that repeatedly in fact the Group B was using every "proposal" to go back to the general issues of assessment of the situation in each sector.

While there has been some slight nuances in each of the Committees, the spokesmen reported that overall the Group B countries had not engaged themselves in any negotiations, and their prolonging the work in the Committees (beyond the Saturday deadline) would produce no useful results.

In some Committees, G77 delegates later said, it was clear that even when the Group B spokesman showed some movement, the U.S. quickly pulled them back. This, they said, was very visible for example in the Committee on Trade, but could also be discerned in other committees.

Delegates said after the meeting that there was also renewed determination among the members to maintain their unity and solidarity against what they saw as efforts of the Group B countries to divide and differentiate the G77.

They noted that even in the Committee on LDCS, the OECD group had been talking of the LDCS not being a "homogenous group", and hence presumably the LDC members needing differentiated treatment.

The Group B countries were also reported in that committee as in effect trying to push through some ideas that could be used against the G77 as a whole in all the sectors.

They were thus depicted as insisting on an agreed assessment before embarking on policy measures, and trying to focus mainly on the type of domestic policies the LDCS should pursue.

The recommendations out of the Conference on LDCS, the Group B reportedly suggested, should call on these countries to pursue policies providing market-oriented incentives to stimulate their economies, and pursue economic and development policies to increase economic efficiency, domestic savings, and rationalise public expenditure and the role of governments in production activities.

"To ask countries, whose economy is mostly non-monetised and lacking in major social and other infrastructures, to pursue Ďmarket orientationí would be the joke of the century if it were not seriously advanced at the UNCTAD forum", one third world delegate commented.

There have been some reports that within the Group B itself there is some uneasiness and worry over the overall tactics and strategy of the group.

Some of the Europeans appear to be concerned that the current course might create a situation where UNCTAD-VII might end in failure Ė whether or not any document comes out of it Ė and the tactical alliance between the G77 and the socialists, and the new openings created by the latter in heeding to the G77 pleas and agreeing to joining the common fund, could become an overall strategic alliance.

Another European delegate Saturday expressed some frustration with his own group and said: "the trouble is none of our governments have a UN or UNCTAD policy. We are only trying here to make the communiques out of the OECD Ministerial meeting and Venice summit and UNCTAD policy, and that just canít work".