Jun 29, 1981




Geneva Jun 26 (IPS/by Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- A ministerial meeting of the GATT Contracting Parties is expected next year to consider at the political level the overall condition of the international trading system.


The Director-General of GATT Mr Arthur Dunkel, suggested Friday that while final decisions on this would have to he made by the GATT Contracting Parties at their meeting later this year, the Ministerial Meeting, to be preceded by adequate preparations, could perhaps be held early in the second half of 1982.


The Ministerial Meeting has been suggested by the Consultative Group of Eighteen in GATT, a policy-making body of the GATT representing all the interests. The idea of such a meeting has been strongly pushed by the Third World countries who have been increasingly concerned both by the growing protectionist and other threats to the multilateral GATT trading system. And the failures of the system to accommodate their needs for greater participation in world trade.


Some of the industrialised countries at least appear to be approaching the meeting with great deal of caution and hesitation. The communique issued by the CG-18 speaks of the need for adequate preparations for the meeting, and an analysis of the issues confronting the system and trends and problems likely to emerge in the 1980s.


The last Ministerial Meeting in GATT took place in 1962. The Tokyo Ministerial meeting in 1973 was specifically to agree upon and launch the Tokyo Round Multilateral Trade Negotiations and strictly was not a GATT Contracting Parties meeting.


The 1982 meeting may not result in any new multilateral round of negotiations but could help act as a catalyst to move the international community to Programmes or Plans of Action to deal with the growing problems of world trade and sluggish growth, Mr Dunkel suggested.


According to a communique issued at the end of Friday's meeting of the CG-18, the group had continued its discussion of the implications for the world trading system of the worldwide slow-down in economic activity and the trade tensions associated with it. It noted the continuing efforts of governments to resist protectionist pressures and to maintain liberal trade policies. Nevertheless some Contracting Parties had considered it necessary to introduce or intensify restrictive measures, and pressure for bilateral arrangements to regulate imports in specific sectors had grown.


The group noted that the trade and payments situation of many developing countries continued to give rise to concern and necessitated their fuller participation in world trade. In reviewing current and forthcoming negotiations in the GATT, the group gave particular attention to the renegotiation of the multifibre arrangement.


The group stressed the importance of a strong political commitment on the part of governments to the maintenance of liberal trade policies and the improvement of the multilateral trading system. They agreed that the conclusion of the Tokyo Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations had strengthened the framework for the conduct of international trade and that the highest priority should continue to be given to the effective and faithful implementation of the Tokyo Round agreements. The group noted the continuing efforts to reach a satisfactory agreement on outstanding issues such as the use of safeguard measures.


However the group also noted that trade relations are beset by a number of complex and potentially disruptive problems, reflecting growing protectionist pressures, and that there was a need for improved international cooperation to solve these problems. The group agreed that it would he useful to consider at the political level the overall condition of the trading system. There was broad agreement that to this end it would be appropriate for the GATT Contracting Parties to envisage convening a ministerial meeting during 1982. Adequate preparation for such a meeting would be essential. And for this purpose an analysis would need to be carried out of the issues confronting the trading system and of the trends and problems likely to emerge in the 1980s


The CG 18 meeting again on October 14 and 16 is expected to pursue its discussions on this at that time.


At its meeting yesterday and today, the CG-18 also continued exchange-of views on trends in international trade in agricultural products and reviewed progress in the implementation of the results of the Tokyo Round negotiations.


Asked about the failure of the communique to mention, in the context of the proposed ministerial meeting "he unfinished businesses of the Tokyo Round, specially issues of concern to the Third World, like quantitative restrictions and tariff, escalation on processed products, and the mention of agricultural trade separately, Mr. Dunkel noted that the communique had not talked also of "successful conclusion of the Tokyo Round or about the issue of negotiations in the services sector, being pushed by the industrialised countries.


The implication presumably was that the Ministerial meeting idea strongly pressed by the Third World would have to deal with some of their concerns


In Mr. Dunkel's assessment, in the present international environment, any dialogue or negotiations in any international institution favouring cooperation and discussion would he positive.


While GATT was not acting from any-sense of panic, undoubtedly the international situation was grave, and the fact that policy-makers of various trading blocs, interests and development levels would be meeting at a political level could