Nov 17, 1982




Geneva Nov 16 (IPS/by Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The GATT Council was due Tuesday evening to consider the outcome of the efforts of a small negotiating group that had been trying to prepare an agreed text of a declaration to be adopted by ministers at their meetings here next week.


The Council has before it a text issued Monday on the personal responsibility of the chairman, Amb Bhagirath Lal Das of India, on the texts that had emerged out of the group of some 20 key countries involved in these consultations.


While containing texts on various issues, it has none on the six issues on which discussions are said to be still continuing. These relate to dispute settlement procedures, subsidies, fisheries, services, trade-related performance requirements, and trade in high technology.


If the Council accepts these texts, these are expected to go before the ministers for adoption as a recommendation from the Council, but not otherwise. Since all the key countries were in the group that worked under Mr Das, it is hoped these will be approved, though individual countries might still be recording their reservations or interpretations.


While some of the remaining issues could still be the subject of consultations and negotiations, perhaps at the level of senior officials from capitals and/or ministers, GATT sources suggested that the texts an other points could either be approved or there would be no texts for ministers. The chairman's document, though on his personal responsibility, could not become the starting point for a fresh round of negotiations, it was suggested.


Apart from a review of the crisis facing the GATT multilateral trading system, in the context of the world economic crisis, and the ministers commitments, undertakings and efforts, individually and jointly, to deal with them, the texts also cover various promises of actions in a number of areas. Though in some, they register some advance, these remain promises.


These include: safeguards, GATT rules and activities relating to Third World countries, trade in agriculture, tropical products, quantitative restrictions and other nontariff measures, tariffs, MTN agreements and arrangements, structural adjustment and trade policy, trade in counterfeit goods, textiles and clothing trade and the MFA, forestry products and nonferrous metals and minerals, exchange rate fluctuations and their effects on trade, and dual pricing and rules of origin.


On safeguards, there is talk of a decision to reach an understanding based on GATT principles and providing for transparency, coverage, objective criteria for action including on concept of 'serious injury or threat', temporary nature and degressivity and structural adjustment, compensation and retaliation, and notification, consultation, surveillance and dispute settlements.


On the trade of Third World countries, the GATT Committee on Trade and Development is asked to consult on regular basis with contracting parties individually or collectively, to examine how they had individually responded to the requirements of Part IV of GATT on this. The contracting parties are also urged to implement the decisions on 'differential and more favourable treatment, reciprocity and fuller participation of the developing countries', further improvement of GSP or MFN treatment for products of interest to LDCs, and the Trade and Development Committee to examine prospects for increasing trade between the developed and developing countries, and GATT facilitating this.


On agriculture, a two year work programme to improve market access and supplies, and general liberalisation is envisaged, as also an undertaking to bring agricultural trade more fully into GATT system by improving the provisions, rules and disciplines, and also bring export competition under greater discipline. During the two year work programme, export subsidies and other forms of export assistance would be examined, and during this period, existing or new export subsidies would be subject to the undertakings in the declaration - consistency with GATT, dismantling trade measures inconsistent with them, and fullest consideration by countries in exercise of GATT rights to trading interests of others.


A new committee on trade in agriculture is to be set up for this, and the results and its recommendations are to be examined again by the contracting parties in 1984.


Reviews, consultations and negotiations are also envisaged in the areas of tropical products, quantitative restrictions, escalation of tariffs an increased processing.


Another provision calls for notifying GATT on exported goods or products banned for domestic consumption.