Nov 24, 1982
OUTLOOK FOR MINISTERIAL MEETING CLOUDY
Geneva Nov 23 (IPS/Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The outlook for the GATT Ministerial meeting, beginning Wednesday, remained clouded in face of US threats against Third World and EEC, and EEC's own failure to have unified mandate for the meeting.
A meeting of the EEC Council of Ministers in Brussels Monday apparently failed to resolve the internal differences - with the French objecting to the draft declaration recommended by the GATT council, and particularly its provisions on agriculture and protectionism.
The United States 'threats' to the Third World, EEC and everyone else was being hurled all around - by US officials, a host of Congressional members in the delegation, and in national capitals. The US team, and its variegated voices, presented the appearance of a disorganised negotiating team, but this was seen by most countries as part of the normal US negotiating ploy - where the negotiators always point to the 'hard liners' in the administration or in Congress to wear down the opponent.
But the US Trade Representative, William Brock appears to have told Amb Felipe Jaramillo of Colombia, the spokesman for the Group of Third World countries in GATT, that if the US was unable to get its way this week on various priority issues - services, investment, agriculture etc - Congress within 60 to 90 days would go ahead and enact various protectionist measures.
These bills, Brock would appear to have said, included those to provide for import content in automobiles sold in US market, or textiles etc.
In effect Brock was threatening the countries that the USA would abrogate their (Third World's) existing GATT rights under Articles I and III, if others, and specially the Third World did not yield to the USA and accept restrictions on their domestic economic policies and development objectives by extending GATT's free trading rules to services, investment etc.
US negotiators in Geneva and in capitals were also spreading a great deal of 'misinformation' about the softening attitudes of other Third World countries, in an effort to split the group. On Monday, they were talking of Brazil changing its views or atleast weakening its opposition, in view of the impending US President Reagan's visit to Brazil and that country's borrowing needs on the US markets.
As for the EEC position, initial reports in Geneva from Brussels were not at all clear. Some reports said that individual EEC ministers would take individual positions and that there would be no collective EEC stand an the ministerial declaration.
Other reports said that unless EEC ministers are able to take a unified position, the EEC would probably not be a party to the declaration, and would have a separate one of its own.
In either event, this would make a total fiasco of the GATT Ministerial. But if the former were true, it would even call into question the de facto status of the EEC within GATT. The General Agreement and its Contracting Parties have never formally accepted the EEC as a customs union, and have not waived their own rights, though they have done so in practice, and have dealt with the EEC as one negotiating bloc.