Sep 9, 1986


GENEVA SEP. 6 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- There are no formal proposals before GATT for excluding South Africa from the Punta del Este meeting or from the proposed new round of multilateral trade negotiations, "and the problem does not exist", the GATT Director-General, Arthur Dunkel told newsmen Friday.

At a press conference to release GATT's annual report on international trade where he was replying to questions about the Punta del Este Ministerial Meeting, Dunkel was asked whether any third world contracting party had advised him that they intended to block South Africa at Punta del Este and from participating in the new round, as called for on August 23 by The Cairo high level meeting of the Group of 77 on ECDC.

Dunkel stressed that the problem of apartheid and South Africa was not a North-South problem, and that there were strong pressures and views on this issue even in industrial countries.

"But for me, in my capacity either as chairman of the Preparatory Committee or as Director-General of GATT, the South Africa problem does not exist", Dunkel said.

Dunkel's remarks lent credence to unconfirmed reports here that the three major trading blocs (US, EEC and Japan), are manouvering to ensure that the South Africa and Soviet application issues do not formally come up before the Ministerial Meeting, but are handled at the informal meeting of heads of delegations, before the formal opening of the ministerial meeting on Monday afternoon.

The advantage for the US and other western countries would be that there would be no records, and the issue could be negatively disposed of on the ground of lack of consensus.

At the news conference, Dunkel was however reminded that even if the GATT CPS took no notice of the recommendation from The Cairo G77 Meeting, on July 31, at the final session of the Preparatory Committee, Nigeria had raised the issue, and had been supported all the African States.

And, since the summary records of the PREPCOM had also been remitted to the Punta del Este meeting, how could Dunkel contend that the issue did not exist, either in his capacity as chairman of the PREPCOM or as GATT Director-General.

Dunkel said that he did not have summary records before him, but speaking from memory, even if there had been a debate on this issue in the PREPCOM, no formal request for excluding South Africa was placed before it.

Another GATT Official, responsible for the PREPCOM, explained that Nigeria had spoken on the apartheid issue at the PREPCOM, and it had been supported by eight other African States.

But Nigeria had not asked for exclusion of South Africa, and had merely hoped that if the UN imposed mandatory sanctions, the GATT CPS would support it and implement such measures as provided for in the general agreement.

Some of the African participants at the July 31 meeting of the PREPCOM however questioned this interpretation, though they agreed that the issue was not yet formally before the Punta del Este meeting, and this would depend upon any decisions taken by their governments in the capitals.

They said that apart from some of the controversies relating to the records of that particular meeting, even according to these delegates, the summary records as issued, when read as a whole, gave a different picture.

The summary records of the July 31 meeting clearly show that Nigerian Delegate had said "On the question of participation (in the new round), he wished to draw the committee's attention to an issue of particular concern to his delegation, both as regards attendance at Punta del Este and participation in the new round".

He then referred to South Africa's apartheid policy, resulting in systematic denial of basic human rights for vast majority of the population, and being pursued in defiance of numerous UN resolutions and in violation of international law.

The Nigerian Delegate is then recorded as having said: "There was growing pressure in favour of the imposition of comprehensive sanctions against this contracting party, as it was becoming increasingly clear that this was the only mechanism left to the international community if the apartheid system was not to provoke a racial war".

"In the event that a decision were taken to impose sanctions, it was to be hoped that contracting parties would support that decision, and implement agreed measures in accordance with the provisions of article XXXV of the general agreement. This possibility should be borne in mind in the context of launching the new round".

(Article XXXV in GATT is the non-application clause, under which a contracting party excludes another from benefit of its tariff concessions, or the general agreement, in certain circumstances, but its applicability to this case was not clear. Article XXV is the article enabling contracting parties jointly to take actions to further objectives of the general agreement).

After Nigeria raised the issue, seven other states (Egypt, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Cameroon, Tanzania, Haiti, and Zaire) spoke, associating themselves with the Nigerian statement on apartheid.

Of these, Zimbabwe and Tanzania specifically called for South Africa's exclusion.

The delegation of Zimbabwe is recorded as having said: "His delegation was opposed to the participation in the new round of negotiations of the contracting party which practised the policy of apartheid".

The delegate of Tanzania is recorded as having said: "He supported the statement made by the representative of Nigeria concerning the apartheid policies of one contracting party. His delegation was opposed to the participation of this contracting party at the meeting at Punta del Este".