Wednesday 31 March 1993




Geneva 29 March (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The Chairman of the GATT CONTRACTING PARTIES, Amb. Balkrishna Zutshi of India is expected to begin consultations from next week on various candidates being suggested for the post of the Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Zutshi who began these consultations in February, and advised the GATT Council of it at its February meeting, has given time till end of March for various names to be put forward. He is away this week in India (for consultations with his government), and is expected to return next week. Thereafter he will resume the 'consultations' with the CPS on choosing a successor to Dunkel.

GATT sources said that a choice would probably not be made until May-June. The term of office of incumbent Arthur Dunkel, first appointed in 1980, is due to end on 30 June of this year.

Apart from finding a successor to Dunkel, a successor has also to be found for the GATT Deputy Director-General Carlyle, a US national. There have been reports that the US would want Carlyle to be succeeded by Warren Lavorel, the current US chief official negotiator.

Previously, GATT had two Deputy Directors-General, with one being held by a Third World national. In reorganisation that he did in 1991, GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel, did not fill up one of the posts of the deputies when its incumbent, M.G.Mathur of India retired. At that time several contracting parties made clear that abolition of the posts needed consultations and approval by them.

On the issue of successor to Dunkel, there had been some speculation in January that he might be asked to continue for another six months to complete the Round. While this still cannot be ruled out (if no acceptable successor commands consensus), at present this is viewed as unlikely.

However, some sources close to key delegations had reported in February that soon after the new administration took over US officials had been informally sounding others against another extension for Dunkel and suggesting that a successor should be found and it should be a high-level political personality. This was seen by several others as indicative of US opposition to a further term for Dunkel, but also that it sees no quick end to the Round.

In late December and early January, the Bush administration (as also the EC) had indicated that an agreement was close at hand -- a view quickly repudiated by the new administration and its Trade Representative, Micky Kantor.

While the Dunkel draft final act text proved embarrassing to the EC over agriculture, the text has also proved embarrassing to the US in areas like anti-dumping where the new administration, as its predecessor, wants some major changes to virtually ensure that its domestic processes and procedures would not be subject to any challenge at multilateral level.

The preliminary consultations held by Zutshi in mid-February reportedly showed a general view that the choice of a successor should be faced now itself, so that a new GATT head who would take over in July would not only be there in the final stages of the conclusion of the Round, but more importantly be there and provide some continuity for the implementation of the agreements.

This process is now seen as likely to be prolonged and even problematic.

The view that a new person heading the GATT secretariat and the official level meetings of the Uruguay Round Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) would further complicate the conclusion of the Round has not found too much support among the key participating countries.

As one of the negotiators put it, negotiations in the GATT and the Round is among governments and contracting parties -- with the GATT head and secretariat having no role, except to service the negotiations. Any continuity needed would come out of the secretariat and, at this stage there was little that any GATT official could do.

While names of several leading politicians who have held high offices in their countries (including some who a while ago left office under domestic cloud) are being mentioned -- there are some who question the utility or usefulness of a high-level personality with public visibility.

"The view that a GATT head has only to take the telephone and talk to the heads of governments of important countries to resolve the trade tangles is to take a simplistic view of the complications of these negotiations which no longer deal with goods that cross the frontiers -- and by and large represent a small percentage of the domestic consumption," one negotiator noted.

"They now touch almost every aspect of domestic economics, and the political economy of countries, and Presidents and Prime Ministers are not so powerful as to be able to decide and push through things. Only governments can negotiate and reach compromises that can be acceptable to their domestic public opinion, and international civil servants can't play god or appeal to the public over the heads of governments," the negotiator added.

Another noted that in the post-Uruguay Round institutional arrangement, whether under the proposed Multilateral Trade Organization (favoured by the EC and several developing countries) or the GATT-II approach favoured by the United States, the secretariat and its head would still have only limited powers or leeway. The new institution would still be dealing with 'contractual relationships' and no government would willingly allow too much initiatives to international civil servants in this area, he added.