Mar 9, 1993




Geneva March 8 (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The US administration appears to be attempting to get the Uruguay Round stalled talks resumed, and get its trading partners indicate willingness to meet "core" concerns of the United States before going to Congress for extension of fast-track authority.

This is the impression of trade negotiators after some unofficial consultations last week where the US chief official negotiator, Warren Lavorel would appear to have spelt out some views on the administration's intentions.

Coincidentally or otherwise, also in town last week was the US Ambassador to GATT, Rufus Yerxa who is now moving to Washington to be one of the deputies to the US Trade Representative.

While President Clinton and his Trade Representative, Mickey Kantor, have indicated the administration would seek fast-track authority from the Congress, they have not indicated when they would do that and for how long.

Also not clear is whether in granting the fast-track authority, Congress would attacha new conditions.

In closing days of the Bush administration (in December and early January), the US has outlined some of its 'core concerns' over the Uruguay Round Draft Final Act texts put on the table in December 1991 by GATT Director-General and Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, Arthur Dunkel.

The US has said, and formulated its proposals informally, that the texts on the table should be amended and changed in several areas. These include abandoning the idea of the Multilateral Trade Organization (MTO) as a definitive treaty and creating an organization in favour of a so-called GATT-II which in some respects would maintain the present unsatisfactory nature of the General Agreement as a provisional treaty and ensuring that the US domestic laws would not be automatically changed or abrogated.

The US has also sought changes among others in anti-dumping rules, in services framework (to enable the derogation from the Services agreement of several sectors including maritime services), in intellectual property legislation to further enhance the global monopoly rights of its corporations.

In the green room consultations last week, the US officials would appear to have said that the administration wants to make "one more effort" to conclude the negotiations and wants it to be resumed quickly.

While the administration, and in this case President Clinton, appears to be still waiting to make up its mind, US officials have indicated that they would seek a short-term fresh negotiating authority (the so-called fast-track authority under which Congress would vote yes or not but not amend the details of a package of agreements) to wind up the negotiations one way or other by December, giving perhaps a month or two for the filing of schedules etc and enabling the President to send the package to Congress.

However, the US officials appear to be advising trading partners, that before the administration could go before Congress and get fast-track authority, the administration needs to strengthen its hands, through intense negotiations now, that the concerns of the US and that of Congress would be met.

The Clinton administration appears to be saying that since its trading partners are negotiating with the US Congress through the administration and its trade negotiators, they must indicate to the US negotiators what would be gained to persuade Congress to provide fresh authority.

In effect, the administration appears to be intent on taking advantage of the anxiety of other trading partners to complete the Round, by asking them to pay a price now before going to the Congress.

Apart from the changes in the Dunkel text, the US also seeks movement from the two major trading entities, Japan and the European Community, in negotiations on market access and initial commitments on services in sectors of interest to the United States.

Trade officials say that the US in the consultations got a strong message from other trading partners that no serious or real negotiations -- on either the changes in the Dunkel text or the market openings in goods and services -- would be possible until the US came to the negotiating table with the fast-track authority.

While in the initial stages of the Uruguay Round, 1987 and 1988, trading partners "negotiated" without the administration having a fast-track authority, the "negotiations" at that stage merely involved preparing the technical grounds for substantive negotiations.

But now that everything is on the table, and final deals have to be stuck, no one could be expected to negotiate first with the administration, and then via the administration with the Congress, paying a double price so to say. No one would negotiate, even if the negotiating process is resumed technically, without having a clear picture of the intentions of the Congress through its grant of fast-track authority.

Some trade observers though believe that much might depend on what view the European Community would take. If it decides to do a 'deal' with the United States and begins negotiation ahead of Congressional authority, it would be difficult for others to hold back.

But the EC's intentions are unlikely to be known ahead of the French elections -- the first round on 21 March and the runoff on 28 March.