Nov 30, 1982



Geneva nov 29 (IPS/Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Weary Third World delegates, as they walked cut of the Geneva International Conference Centre after the conclusion of the Ministerial meeting in GATT, had nothing really to take home and shout about.

 But they were relieved at having stopped the combined onslaught an them from the North, at having been able to preserve the little they had that the rich wanted to rob them of still.

 Since 1980, as the Third World countries began preparing for the GATT ministerial, and actively involved themselves over the last year in the preparations and negotiations, they had virtually no 'new demands' on the North. There was not even talk of the NIEO except for one or two ministers. It was the North that came up with demands on the South. The only objective of the South was to resist being robbed, and preserve what little they had.


Viewed in this light, while the declaration adopted was a weak promise of carrying out tomorrow yesterday's "commitments" and more concrete and firmer promises, it was a success of sorts in preventing the inroads from the North.

 While much of the credit was due to the active interest shown in group meetings to coordinate, many of them singled out Colombia's Felippe Jaramillo their spokesman, and India's Bhagirath Lal Das, the Chairman of the GATT Council, for praise.

 Several of the objectives and demands of the North - of the USA, the EEC and Japan - were blocked by the Third World, who have no real grouping in GATT, and only recently have been functioning together and coordinating their positions as an 'informal group'. Even the word 'developing countries' is never used in GATT - it is all 'less developed countries' and includes Spain, Israel and Turkey.

 One reason for the outcome, insofar as the Third World is concerned, was that none from the North - USA, EEC, Japan or others - had anything to offer in return for their demands. But even then it was only the collective position, and the energy and patience and skill of a handful of countries (with very small staff) that have been at the job over the last few months.

 In the result the group blocked some pernicious ideas promated by industrialised countries like 'graduation', 'selectivity', 'North-South round' to wind down GSP scehems, 'trade-related performance requirements' and such others.

 Each one was harmful enough, but cumulatively would have meant Third World countries losing any hope of 'autonomous development', and a virtual return to early colonial era with the 'free traders and free booters' of that era being replaced by today's more powerful 'Transnational Corporations'.

 The Third World countries had not framed a charter of demands or a plan of action for this meeting. They did not even formulate or put forward any new individual or collective plea.

But in a world of economic crisis, where public and mass media attention was concentrated on the problems of the rich - their low growth and recesssion, unemployment (high but not so bad as the chronic unemployment in the Third World) and their trading problems - the Third World group managed to focus attention on their problems and worries, and the dangers to the rich in ignoring them.

 Without making any new demands, the Third World effectively put back on GATT agenda and work programme, implementation of previous promises in declarations, and the firm commitments in the (General) Agreement itself. They also managed to create some mechanisms that could enable them to apply steady pressure on the industrialised countries to carry out their promises and even more their obligations.

 They now have a renewed promise to bring into effect a comprehensive understanding on safeguards 'to be based on principles of General Agreement'- thus rejecting the 'selectivity' concept.

 Pressures on them to accept 'selectivity' in some form or another had come in public and private advise to them from Northern capitals, and many of the international organisations too, either openly or by silence on the issue. Only the UNCTAD Secretary-General took on the issue at the meeting itself, and rejected the reasoning behind this as well as the connected 'grduation' concept.

 The Industrial Countries have now been reminded of their 'obligations' to the Third World in 'committments' written into the General Agreement in Part IV. The Trade and Development Committee (TDC) has been asked to 'consult' on a regular basis, individually or collectively, to examine how individual cps have responded to the requirements of Part IV that cast a special responsibility on the industrialised countries.

 Apart from the agricultural committee that is to studv agricultural problems (with EEC making clear it is not going to negotiate issues covered by Tokyo Round), the CPs have also aqreed to consult and carry out appropriate negotiations for further liberalisation of trade in tropical products.

 Another group, created for this purpose, will review quantitative restrictions (tabooed by GATT, but still persisting and proliferating against Third World exports), aimed at either their elimination or being brought into line with the provisions of the General Agreement. The latter would mean the party maintaining the quantitative restrictions must seek 'waivers' and come up under multilateral scrutiny that structural adjustments are taking place to wind down the QRs, and otherwise compensate the affected parties.


There were a few minor gains too: 

-- notification procedure in GATT for cps to advise about goods produced and exported by them that are banned for sale domesticlly oan grounds of human health and safety.

 -- cps, members of oecd and other such groupings having export-credit agreements or arrangements about terms, to review or revise them in order to facilitate Third World ability to buy capital goods, and for GATT Director-General to consult with the cps concerned and report.