Jul 12, 1986


GENEVA JULY 10 (IFDA-CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – The GATT Preparatory Committee has held another round of informal consultations on the question of the nature of the September 15 Ministerial Meeting at Punta del Este in Uruguay, but has been unable to reach any decisions, GATT Secretariat sources reported Thursday.

These sources said that the chairman of the PREPCOM, GATT Director-General, Arthur Dunkel, would held further consultations to solve the issue.

The meetings of the PREPCOM, though originally scheduled to continue on a daily basis till it completes its work, was adjourned till Tuesday, presumably because Dunkel is travelling to Montevideo for consultations and talks with the governments there on arrangements for the September 15 meeting.

On the nature of the meeting, GATT Secretariat sources said that there was "a great deal of support" for the view that the Ministerial meeting should be a session of the GATT Contracting Parties (CPS), so that the CPS could have "full control" over the entire negotiating processes in the new round "from start to finish".

This, the sources said, would also make the framework of the negotiations clear from the start, and not force the CPS, at the end of the negotiations, to make decisions whether the agreements reached should or should not be integrated into the GATT.

These sources however said that the U.S. and EEC were insisting that there should be prior commitment or assurances from other CPS that the Punta del Este meeting would be able to discuss and take decisions on "new themes" (services, intellectual property rights, and investment issues) and that the Ministers would not be faced with "procedural road blocks".

There were also some countries who backed the idea of an ad hoc meeting so that the Ministers could discuss and take decisions on services, intellectual property rights and investment issues.

There have been suggestions from some industrial countries that a deadlock in the PREPCOM would automatically result in am ad hoc meeting – a view supported by the U.S., but strongly rebutted by India and others, who argue that the very decision of the CPS in 1985, setting up the PREPCOM, implied a Ministerial meeting of the CPS.

But apart from this "legal" issue, several GATT CPS feel that it would be a strange "message" to the world’s trading community about the ability or intentions of governments to liberalise the world trading system through a process at Punta del Este, if they could not even agree on the nature of a meeting.

The idea of an ad hoc meeting due to lack of decision in the PREPCOM would also appear to place on the host country very difficult choices on whom to invite to the ad hoc meeting and whom to exclude.

Could Uruguay, which is trying to sell agricultural and mat products to the Soviet Union, keep out the Soviet Union (which has expressed an interest) out of an non-GATT ad hoc meeting?

Also, could the government of Uruguay issue an invitation to the apartheid regime of South Africa (which is a GATT CP and would automatically be eligible to participate in a normal GATT meeting) to attend an ad hoc meeting?

According to some participants, perhaps keeping some of these issues in the back of its mind, Uruguay in the informal consultations came out in favour of a CPS meeting. It recalled it was one of those that in 1982 had entered specific reservations over GATT competence in services and had so far seen no reason to change it, but was open to dialogue and would not oppose anyone raising any issue.

Colombia is reported to have pointed out that there were no "procedural hurdles" against any Minister raising or discussing the new issues, citing the precedents of the 1982 Ministerial Meeting when the U.S. had spoken on services, investment and other issues, and subsequent sessions of GATT CPS in 1984 and 1985, where there had been decisions about exchange of information on services.

However, this did not appear to satisfy the U.S. and EEC, who are essentially seeking, not the right of their Ministers to raise these issues, but advance assurance that the others would agree to include these items on the agenda of a new round.

None of the Third World Countries opposed to the new themes are ready to give any such assurance sought by the U.S. and EEC, and several of them are determined to block any of these subjects being on the agenda of a new round.

Brazil would appear to have gone further, and made clear that it recognised no right of any one in GATT that did not strictly flow from the provisions of the general agreement.

The only right any GATT CP could have was to seek an amendment of the GATT, to deal with new themes, and follow the procedures of the GATT for amendment.

There was no other way of dealing with these issues, whether by the backdoor or through grey area steps at grey area meetings, the Brazilian delegate is reported to have declared.