Apr 11, 1986


GENEVE, APRIL 9 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – An attempt to get the incumbent GATT Director-General, Arthur Dunkel, re-elected for another term through and ad hoc "no objection" procedure appears to have been blocked by several third world delegations.

Dunkel, a Swiss national, has been holding this office since 1980.

He was appointed to this office in October 1980, initially for a three-year term with a provision for automatic continuation in office for another three years, unless there was an objection and decision to the contrary.

Dunkel’s term is due to end on September 30, 1986.

The U.S., EEC and Japan appear to have decided to continue Dunkel in office, but their efforts to have this done through, what one third world delegate describes as, current "ad hoc non-procedures", has run into trouble.

The chairman of the GATT Contracting Parties, Amb. Kazuo Chiba of Japan, apparently held some limited consultations early in march, to make the appointment of a GATT Director-General and re-election of Dunkel "a routine affair", and a new term approved before end of April.

At the meeting of the GATT Council on march 12, Egypt had raised the issue of procedures and consultations in such matters, and had wanted the GATT Council to be advised about it, and underlined the need for "transparency" and wider consultations within the GATT Council on the procedures to be followed.

After Egypt had raised the issue, Chiba is reported to have sent a letter to all GATT delegations, advising them of his intention to propose to the GATT Council the re-election of Dunkel for a new term, unless he heard to the contrary from any delegation within a month.

This time limit apparently is due to expire at the end of this week.

It is not clear why, if the issue was to be brought up before the GATT Council for decision, the consultations were initiated by the chairman of the Contracting Parties, and not by the chairman of the GATT Council, South Korea’s Amb. Kun Park.

According to GATT sources, several third world delegations have blocked the move, arguing that the time limit proposed by Chiba was not acceptable, and that more time was needed by their governments to reflect on the issue in the capitals.

The delegations are also reported to have stressed that the questions of rules and procedures for election of a Director-General should first be addressed and settled in the council.

Also, governments should be provided with all possible options in such matters, and given enough time to consider the options and make up their minds.

Among the delegations who have reportedly objected to Chiba’s proposed procedure are reportedly Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Nigeria and Yugoslavia.

The objections and views of delegations, with varying nuances have reportedly been conveyed separately to Chiba, according to GATT sources.

According to some of these sources, the issue is not so much one about the personality involved, but the much wider question of how GATT is to be run, and the question of settled procedures and transparency in consultations and decisions.

The initial limited consultations of Chiba, and the "no objection" procedure sought to be used in the election of a Director-General, have only precipitated long-standing grievances about how GATT is run, taking account of the interests of the U.S. and EEC (and to some extent of Japan), but ignoring the large membership of GATT and their preoccupations, one third world delegate said.

Some African delegates point out that when a group of "eminent persons" was named in 1983 to go into the future of the trading system, the GATT Director-general could not find "one eminent person" from Africa to include in the group.

Some of the delegations of smaller industrial countries privately say that there is some force in the complaints of third world delegations, and it was time to sort these matters out.

Some of the delegates say that now that the issue has been brought into the open, it is time to take the opportunity to settle the procedures and rules, including tenure of office and limitations on tenure, principles of geographical rotation in such offices and other such matters.

The major industrial nations could not object to repeated terms for third world personalities in executive positions in other UN Agencies, and refuse to adopt same standards in organisations controlled by them, one delegate from an industrial country told IFDA as his personal view.

Some third world delegates privately complain that the GATT Secretariat has been headed by nationals of industrial countries from inception.

Whatever its justification in the earlier days when GATT membership was mainly from the industrial countries, now that two-thirds of the membership is from the third world, the principle of rotation of such offices should be also addressed.

Some delegations note that except in the case of GATT, and of the World Bank in Washington, in all the UN system organisations, it has been a salutary principle that the country where the organisation is located does not also provides the chief executive officer.

This practice was not followed in GATT when Dunkel’s predecessor, Oliver Long, also a Swiss national, was elected.

Also, a Swiss national now heads another UN Agency located in Geneva, the UN High Commission for Refugees.