Sep 4, 1986


GENEVA SEP. 2 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTH RAGHAVAN) -- The European community sees the Punta del Este GATT Ministerial Meeting, and the launching of a new trade round there, from a political perspective, and hence its emphasis on consensus and taking everyone on board.

This EEC viewpoint is reported to have been stressed Tuesday by the EEC's chief delegate to GATT, Amb. Tran Van Thinh, at an informal meeting of the group of countries involved in the consultations that led to the tabling of the Swiss-Colombian draft for Ministerial Declaration in the Preparatory Committee.

Tran's remarks reportedly were in response to criticisms by the US delegate, Amb. Samuelson, of EEC moves for talks with countries like India, Brazil and others, to find compromise and consensus at Punta del Este that could meet concerns of everyone.

The PREPCOM ended in failure over its mandate to formulate recommendations to the GATT Ministerial Meeting, and on July 31 merely remitted all three alternative texts before it for the consideration of Ministers.

The three texts remitted to the Ministerial Meeting, known in GATT circles by the document numbers, are:

* A draft declaration tabled by a group of ten third world countries (Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, India, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania, and Yugoslavia), known as the 41/REV.1.

* A draft tabled by Switzerland and Colombia, W/47/REV.2, purporting to be on basis of "intensive consultations among a large number of participants in the PREPCOM", and considered by its sponsors as having "broad support to the basis for discussion by Ministers at Punta del Este", and

* An Argentinean amendment to an earlier version of the Swiss-Colombian text, known as the W/49, which Argentina has explained is its political initiative to bridge the gap between 41/REV.1 and 47/REV.2.

The group of ten had formulated their own draft for the Ministerial declaration, dealing with the area of trade in goods, and with some strong formulations on the issues of standstill, rollback, and safeguards. They had also made clear that they would consider the "services" issue at Punta del Este CPS' meeting, only in the context of earlier decisions on exchange of information, but not as part of GATT.

The Argentinean draft mostly uses the formulations in the group of ten document on traditional areas of goods, but has a separate formulation on services providing for a separate exercise on this leading to separate negotiations.

In the days before the end of the PREPCOM, and particularly during the efforts to put together the Swiss-Colombian text, there had been talk of the effort being one aimed at isolating the group of ten third world countries, and within them of Brazil and India.

The aim, it was said, was to get 40-50 GATT CPS behind the paper, present it to the PREPCOM, and then to the Punta del Este Meeting, launch the new round on that basis, telling Brazil, India and others in the group of ten that either they could join or "be left out in the cold".

However this effort appears to have failed in the final stages, partly over differences involving the EEC and within the EEC over agriculture, but also (and connected with it) differences within EEC over the interpretation to be given by the EEC negotiators to the mandate given to them over the new round by the EEC Ministers.

At the final meeting of the PREPCOM on July 31, some 30 countries gave their support to the Swiss-Colombian text, with eight willing to cosponsor it and others wanting it to be the "the basis" for the Ministerial Meeting.

The EEC, though leaning towards the Swiss-Colombian paper (in whose drawing up they had been involved), did not commit itself.

Apart from the group of ten, some five other third world countries made clear that they could not agree to the Swiss-Colombian text being the sole basis, and wanted all the three drafts to be placed before the Ministerial Meeting.

Since then, on August 29, at the meeting on exchange of information on services (chaired by Colombia's Felipe Jaramillo), the EEC would appear to have underlined its view on need for consensus over the new round, and that it would be willing to consider the possibility of an ad hoc ministerial meeting on the new themes at Punta del Este, outside the GATT CPS meeting, if that would help promote compromise solutions over services or other new themes.

The EEC remarks on the ad hoc meeting had been made on July 31 at the PREPCOM, but had been omitted from the summary records of that meeting issued by the GATT Secretariat. Since then, at the EEC instance, a corrigendum has been issued.

At the Aug. 29 services meeting, India, Brazil, and others opposing new themes in GATT, responded positively to the EEC statement, and their willingness to consider a process on services that would be delinked from the GATT. They also made clear that any effort to force a consensus on the basis of negotiations involving goods and services in GATT would be resisted by them and that they would formally object to such a procedure at Punta del Este.

The Uruguayan Foreign Minister, Enrique Iglesias, who will chair the Punta del Este meeting and who visited Brussels and Geneva last week, had told Newsmen on Aug. 30 at Geneva that the EEC was having some talks with India, Brazil, and others opposed to the services issue, in an effort to reach compromises.

There have also been other reports that the EEC has been having bilateral talks with India, Brazil and others opposing services and other new themes being brought into GATT, collaterally through the new round, rather than an amendment of GATT and following GATT procedures.

At Tuesday's private meeting of the countries involved in the Swiss-Colombian text, the US delegate, Amb. Samuelson, is reported to have expressed unhappiness over the EEC moves, and its reported talks in its efforts to promote compromises.

Samuelson also reportedly questioned the idea of an ad hoc meeting over services, arguing that in the US view there could be no new round without the inclusion of services, and everything being treated as a single undertaking.

Tran however is reported to have replied that the EEC saw the Punta del Este meeting and the new round of trade negotiations, not as a mere technical negotiations on trade, but one with important political dimensions.

The process at Punta del Este, and the entire new round, would decide the future of international trade over the next two or three decades, and hence it had some important political aspects that the EEC had to be bear in mind.

In this perspective, the EEC did not believe in isolating anyone, and could not imagine launching the new round without taking everyone on board.

This meant EEC's readiness to talk to everyone, and finding ways of reaching compromises.

On the US objections about ad hoc meeting on services at Punta del Este, outside the GATT CPS meeting, tran reportedly said that while the EEC agreed that the new round must be one single undertaking, it could not rule compromises on modalities that could take everyone on board.