Nov 30, 1982



Geneva Nov 29 (IPS/Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Ever since GATT decided in 1980 to convene a ministerial meeting in 1982, the USA and its trade representative William Brock have tried to hijack GATT to new destinations than those scheduled.

 Media attention from Washington all these months have been specially concentrated on three issues - 'trade in services', 'investment', and 'high technology goods and services'.

 During the long months of preparations and the trip to Geneva, the US was forced to retreat constantly lowering its sight and giving ground by redefining the terms.

 By the time Brock arrived in Geneva, he already had given up the 'services' part of the last item. The US managed to get into the first version of the Canadian chairman's final proposals, circulated on Sunday night, a decision to examine trade aspects of high technology goods, with the GATT Council being asked to define the terms of reference of the study, timeframe and procedures. But by the time the plenary finally assembled on Monday early morning, the USA had to agree to scrub out of the declaration even this reference to high technology because the EEC would have none of it. 

Even at the preparatory stage, the US was forced to modify the wider 'investment' issue to narrow it to trade-related performance requirements'. But the Third World would have none of it, and the US had to drop it before others would even look at some of its other issues. 

In the prolonged negotiations on Saturday night, the Third World was, or atleast it thought it was, faced with the prospect that their opposition to 'services' (on grounds of GATT's lack of jurisidction) was going to be used both by the USA and the EEC to blame them for the failure, even though the real cause was their mutual divisions. The Third World did some quick footwork, and agreed to a formulation that got them out of the cross fire between the US and EEC, and the services issue was accepted as part of a package in the final document. 

Though the USA has claimed this to be a plus point for it, it was of a sort that could give them little comart now or in future, and they may even have bought some trouble.


The decision: 

-- Rrecommends to each cp, with an interest in 'services of different types' to undertake as far as it is able, national examination of the issues in this sector.

 -- For the cps to exchange the information an such matters among themselves. This could be done through international organisations such as GATT. The compilation and distribution should be based on as uniform a format as possiblem (but there is no decision on who will decide this format). 

-- The results of these examinations, along with information and comments provided by relevant international organisations, are to be reviewed by the CPs at their 1984 session when they are to consider whether any multilateral action in these matters is appropriate and desirable. 

Thus GATT secretariat as such has little role, and even the post-office job can be done by any international organisation.

 Even more interestingly, the studies an 'services of different types', would mean that while the US has facussed on services issue in one way, as several like India and Pakistan have made clear it must involve all factors of production and thus labour, technoloqy flows and access etc. The wording would appear to be wider than the original parameteres sought by the USA.

 If the US or Switzerland want to set up some consultancy service or choose their technical men of their own nationality, and want to make this a right through 'free'trade in services', the Third World can and is going to put under same title the right for their plumbers, carpenters, clerks, or even unskilled labour to trade their services in Switzerland or USA.

 With UNCTAD already involved in much wider apsects of the services issue, and with GATT secretariat's own role very restricted in this, there will be some interesting twists and turns.

 Undoubtedly, the USA will be like the camel that puts its nose into the tent and drove out the inhabitant with its odour. The USA will use the chink opened up to keep presure on the Third World to initiate discussions and move to negotiations for 'free trade in services'. Third World will have to be alert - and unite and fight new battles on multilateral framework's desirability, and the GATT competence issue all over again. But it can prepare also for the battle, by altering the rules of the talk and shifting the ground of the fight from 'barriers to services' to the 'wider services for development' issues.