Jan 29, 1993


Geneva Jan 27 (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The European Community's Commissioner for external trade relations and the GATT negotiations, who is in Geneva on what is described as a 'familiarization' mission, Wednesday held a series of meetings, individually and collectively, with negotiatiors from other countries on the state of play in the Uruguay Round and how to bring it to a successful conclusion.

The Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) which undertook a stock- taking exercise on 19 January has now virtually recessed the negotiations, pending a clear signal from the Clinton administration in Washington.

Sir Leon Brittan who in January took over responsibility within the Commission for the GATT negotiations, has been attempting to press the Clinton administration to conclude the Round in time to meet the 1 March fast-track deadline of the US Congress.

He had sought an early meeting with the new US Trade Representative Micky Kantor in Washington, but that meeting has been now set only for 11 February -- to give time for Kantor to organise his department, name his top aides and consult with them and familiarize himself with the issues.

In the closing days of the Bush administration (after a meeting in London between Brittan and Bush's Trade Representative Carla Hills), the US and EC negotiators had attempted to conclude a deal, or at least agree on a political outline.

But this failed because of the major differences between the two sides - - the US demands for exchanges in the Dunkel text of the Draft Final Act, as well as their differences on the approach to market access tariff negotiations.

After a series of informal consultations by GATT Director-General Dunkel with a key group of some 20 countries, a picture of the changes sought by various participants has now become clearer

While the key protagonists know each other's position, some substantive negotiations would be needed to resolve these differences and reach a compromise acceptable to all. This would only be possible when the Clinton administration makes up its mind and comes to the negotiations with a clear signal to others that it is serious and would be willing to make the compromises to clinc an agreement.

In his discussions here, Brittan while listening to the viewpoints of the other actors in the negotiations, would appear to have attempted to canvass the view that in order to conclude the negotiations, the Dunkel text should be accepted without any change, excepting those that the EC wants in Agriculture and on which it has reached an agreement with the Bush administration in the so-called Blair House accords.

Apart from Kantor and the US lobbies having some second thoughts on the Blair House accords, Brittan also got the message in Geneva that the negotiations could be concluded now only if the concerns of other countries, and not merely those of the US and EC, are taken into account and compromises reached.