Nov 10, 1982




Geneva Nov 9 (IPS/by Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Informal talks over the text of an agreed declaration to come out of the November GATT Ministerial meeting were continuing, even as there were reports from EEC sources of a possible failure.


The negotiations were being conducted in a small group of representatives of key countries under the GATT Council Chairman, Amb B.L. Das of India.


Reports Monday among some GATT diplomats and newsmen attributed to the EEC a view that the ministerial declaration, now being drafted, is not to EEC's liking and that unless EEC views are met, the EEC will not sign the declaration. The 1963 precedent, when the EEC did not go along with the commitments is cited as an example.


An EEC paper attempts to present the current draft of the ministerial declaration - it is not clear whether the EEC view relates to the draft that came out of the preparatory committee or more informal attempts in Das's group to put together a draft - as lacking vision, direction and depth in its analysis of economic ills of the multilateral trading system, and proposing commitments representing what it calls 'ragtag of unappeased obsessions and unreachable objectives.'


However, the EEC does not seem to like an otherwise emerging consensus within the Das group that calls for strong commitments from contracting parties to eliminate illegal measures and measures not consistent with GATT code. It would appear to be seeking a 'watered-down version' of the draft that reflect the EEC view.


The EEC paper itself does not mention what it seeks to bring under its omnibus 'ragtag' clause. But apparently it seems to be an attempt to take potshots at Third World countries, Australia and New Zealand, and the USA and Japan, in fact the rest of the world. The 'ragtag' appellation apparently extends to such things as the third world call for nondiscriminatory MFN approach including in 'safeguards' measures, lowering barriers to tropical products and removing quantitative restrictions implementation of past 'commitments' embodied in the GATT contract and other such issues.


While some diplomats viewed the EEC attempts as part of its 'pressure tactics', others speculated that it might be an attempt to cover up its own internal differences, visavis the trade relations with the US and the attitudes to be adapted.-


The EEC has been never enthusiastic about the ministerial meeting, and had perhaps earlier hoped the meeting would not take place at all or be postponed - given the wide chasm between the positions of the various protagonists shown in the preparatory committee draft. At an earlier stage it had even hoped the Third World countries would call off the meeting.


Apparently concerned about the way things are now shaping, the EEC has adapted the tactic of trying to divide the Third World as between the LDCs and the rest, and the Third World and the Industrialized Countries. It is arguing that everyone should now

pay attention to the problems of the LDCs, where it is one of survival, while for others - the industrialized countries and the Third World countries alike, presumably it is only one of recovery'.


The EEC hopes perhaps of a breakdown in the negotiations between the Third World and the USA, for example, has not happened, though the Third World has been firm on its fundamental objectives, while being willing to talk and seek 'reasonable compromises.'


In the EEC view, instead of the kind of 'commitments' now sought, governments should merely undertake to 'resist' protectionist pressures, and 'seek to avoid' new measures and, where possible, eliminate existing measures that limit or distort international trade.


It similarly talks of 'efforts' at political and operational level to ensure trade measures are consistent with GATT principles, rules and practices. It also talks of steps being taken to redress the lack of balance between contracting parties contributions and their real level of participation in international trade as well as their resulting economic possibilities and their real level of participation in international trade as well as their resulting economic possibilities.


GATT diplomats say, the informal talks are in a crucial stage, and it would be difficult to predict what would be the outcome.