Sep 2, 1986
IGLESIAS OPTIMISTIC OVER GATT. MINISTERIAL MEETING.GENEVA AUG. 30 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTH RAGHAVAN) -- The Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Enrique Iglesias, who is in chair the Ministerial Meeting of GATT CPS at Punta del Este, struck Saturday a cautiously optimistic note about the outcome. Iglesias, on his way back from the cairnes meeting of the group of 12 non subsidising agricultural producing countries, visited Brussels Thursday before coming to Geneva, where he held talks with a number of key delegations. He met the informal group of third world countries, and separately earlier with the group of ten third world countries that have taken a strong stand on some of the traditional GATT issues for a new round, as well as in opposing the new themes like services and investment issues. Iglesias left Saturday by road to Lions, where he was meeting with the French Agriculture Minister, before going on to Paris on his way back home. In an informal chat with newsmen in Geneva on Saturday before leaving, Iglesias said despite the failure of the GATT preparatory committee, there had been some signs of movement since then, and he felt somewhat more optimistic than he had been two months ago. The risks of not taking any action at Punta del Este were so heavy that there appeared to be a general consensus for a successful outcome, and things seemed to be moving in the right direction, Iglesias said. The Punta del Este meeting, he stressed, as far as he was concerned had to proceed on the basis of the three drafts of a Ministerial Declaration remitted to it by the PREPCOM. Though one of the texts had a larger support, all the three documents had an equal status, and "we have to take all the three into consideration, and our basic aim must be to reach a consensus, as is the GATT tradition and practice", Iglesias said. The three documents helped to put the different points of view in concrete terms. The next week or so, he had suggested, should be used in Geneva to bridge the gaps between the various positions. He had also suggested an informal meeting, at the level of heads of delegations - Ministers or Senior Officials- at Punta del Este, before the start of the Ministerial Meeting, so that the mechanics and other procedural issues could be settled. Apart from the questions of substance, "the mechanics of the meeting are important for image and credibility of the Conference", Iglesias said. The Punta del Este meeting would result in a process leading to a new world trading system, "and in that case the developing countries must be assured of an equal and active participation". This was important for the sake of credibility and image of what was going to be done, and it was also important from the substantive point of view. This underlined the crucial role of "the mechanics" of the meeting, and how to ensure transparency in the negotiating process. In his talks here, he had discerned a concern among delegations, and particularly among the third world countries, on the need to avoid a repetition of earlier experiences, and to ensure transparency in the negotiations at the Punta del Este meeting. Iglesias said he had also been applying his mind to the substantive issues, and he had some ideas, but was not yet ready to formulate them. He would like to hold consultations with ministers and heads of delegations, so that negotiations could be launched from Monday afternoon, when the meeting formally begins. His discussions here and in Brussels indicated that the EEC was trying to do something to find compromise and accommodation on services, and he discerned a similar effort on the part of others. Contrary to the view that the major hurdles were agriculture and the new themes, he had tot the view that the issues in traditional areas like standstill, rollback, textiles, and even the structure of the negotiations in the new round, were very much in the minds of many delegations, and the differences in these areas also had to be solved for a successful launch of negotiations. There were also some political issues - the soviet application for participation in the new round, and as an observer at Punta del Este. There was also the issue of South Africa. Meeting as it did in the third world, and in Latin America, the forthcoming meeting would have to focus its attention on the issues of debt, growth and adjustment, Iglesias underlined. In the area of money and finance, there were some movements for macro-economic coordination. But when it came to trade and the linkages with finance, there was now nothing. Any actions in GATT, or a new round, could not but take a global view. In his talk with the informal third world group Friday evening, Iglesias is reported to have stressed the need for unity among third world countries, so that in nay new trade framework they were not left out or marginalised. Among other speakers at the meeting, Jamaica is reported to have underlined the importance of maintaining the unity of the group. Jamaica, supported by other delegates, is reported to have stressed that the normal GATT rules and procedures must be applied at Punta del Este and transparency maintained in the negotiations. The Jamaican delegate, Amb. Anthony Hill, who participated in the informal consultations leading to the presentation of the Swiss-Colombian text to the PREPCOM, is reported to have complained that there was lack of transparency in the preparation of the text. He found fault with the text on the issues of standstill and rollback, where he is reported to have said the formulation in the text of the group of ten was much stronger, and the idea of protocols being executed to provide credibility to these commitments was worth consideration. The standstill and rollback commitments must be credible, and for this purpose all grey area measures and voluntary export restraint arrangements should be covered.