Mar 28, 1986


GENEVE, MARCH 27 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – After six months of intense work by diplomats of third world participating countries in Geneva, the stage is now set for the launch of the first round of negotiations to establish the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) among members of the Group of 77.

At its meetings here this week, chaired by Amb. Shrirang P. Shukla of India, the GSTP Negotiating Committee, which is mandated to prepare and oversee the conduct of actual negotiations, readied a number of draft documents, whose approval by the governments would enable the actual launch of the first round of negotiations.

A Ministerial meeting of the GSTP Negotiating committee to approve the documents and complete the preparatory phase, and launch the first round of negotiations, is set for Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, from may 19 to 23.

The Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77, in October 1982 in New York had adopted a declaration on the negotiations for the establishment of the GSTP, and had constituted the GSTP Negotiating Committee, open to all G77 countries wishing to participate in the negotiations.

A Ministerial meeting in July 1985 at New Delhi, India, gave further impetus, by providing directions and mandate, and set a time-frame for the GSTP Negotiating Committee to prepare the necessary documents to complete the preparatory phase.

Though the GSTP Negotiating Committee had held several informal meetings before the New Delhi Ministerial meeting, and experts from the Group of 77 had also been working on these issues, it was only after last year’s New Delhi meeting that the GSTP Negotiating Committee began holding formal meetings here, and undertook the task of finalising several draft documents.

Six meetings of the GSTP Negotiating Committee, apart from meetings of three of its working groups and the bureau of the Committee, were held in Geneva since September 1985, to consider various proposals and draft the documents.

As a result of this, the Committee at its meetings here this week, agreed on a number of draft documents – ground rules, a framework agreement for the GSTP, techniques and modalities of the GSTP negotiations, and a negotiating plan for the first phase.

As decided at New Delhi, the approval of the countries concerned to the framework agreement would mark the end of the preparatory phase and enable the launch of the first round of negotiations to set up the GSTP.

Shukla, who has been chairing this phase of intense preparatory work of the GSTP Negotiating Committee, said Thursday the preparatory work had been more or less completed and "a firm foundation has been laid for the launching of the first round of negotiations at Brasilia".

The Brazilian Ambassador, Paulo Nogueira Batista advised the committee this week that the dates for the Ministerial Meeting had now been finalised, and would be held from may 19 to 23, and that formal invitations were going out from the government of Brazil to all members of the committee.

Other G77 members were also being invited to attend the Brasilia meeting as observers.

The Brasilia meeting would open on may 19 at the level of Senior Officials, and would be followed by the Ministerial Meeting later in the week, with a formal opening by the Brazilian President, Dr. Jose Sarney.

Shukla said that after intensive work through a number of working groups and informal sessions, the GSTP Negotiating Committee had been able to more or less finalise the ground rules and a draft framework agreement, the techniques and modalities for the GSTP negotiations, and a negotiating plan for the first phase.

In addition, the committee had also prepared its own draft rules of procedure.

In all these documents, Shukla explained, there were still some gaps to be filled, and a few details (where there are some diverging views) to be settled, but these would not create any major problems and could be settled between now and the meeting in Brasilia.

Ending this phase of its work, the GSTP Negotiating Committee elected Wednesday a new bureau for the next six months, headed by Amb. Batista of Brazil.

Also named to the bureau were two Vice-Presidents from Latin America (Cuba and Venezuela), three from Africa (Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt), and four from Asia (India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yugoslavia).

The various draft texts, with square brackets around a few issues yet to be decided, are to be submitted to the governments of countries participating in the GSTP negotiations so as to enable them to consider them and reach final agreement at Brasilia.

As is now envisaged, the Brasilia meeting is expected to result in a declaration on the launch of the first round of negotiations, the adoption of a framework agreement on the GSTP, and the adoption of the techniques and modalities for the first round of negotiations.

Preparatory work, formally and informally, is to continue in Geneva, between now and may, to prepare a draft declaration for consideration and adoption by Ministers at Brasilia.

Batista said that the Group of 77 had now come "a long way since it set itself at Arusha (in February 1979), the goal of establishing a system of trade preferences among developing countries".

The reference was to the Arusha programme for collective self-reliance, adopted at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 at Arusha in 1979.

The idea of south-south co-operation and collective self-reliance through trade and other measures of mutual economic co-operation has been the battle-cry of the non-aligned movement and the Group of 77 from inception, but it was only at Arusha that the Global System of Trade Preferences among developing countries was conceptualised, in its several aspects.

Batista noted that since Arusha "with the passing of time and the growing erosion of north-south co-operation, in UNCTAD and elsewhere, the question of the improvement of south-south relations has gained in significance".

The Brazilian Ambassador hoped that at Brasilia the group would be as successful as at New Delhi in 1985, and "we will be able to show the world at large and also our own countries the strength of our resolve to stand together in our struggle for development. We are being watched and will not be excused if we fail in our task".