Oct 15, 1992


GENEVA, 14 OCTOBER (CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- Reports and information from third sources, and the public stances of the two principal parties, continue to provide a confusing and contradictory picture of the prospects of an early resumption and conclusion of Uruguay Round negotiations.

The United States and the European Community have had a round of Ministerial level discussions to resolve their differences over agriculture and other matters and break the deadlocking holding up the conclusion of the Round.

The EC's external relations Commissioner, Franz Andriessen, is due to report on the talks to the EC's summit at Birmingham on Friday. There will also be a meeting of the "quad" (U.S., Canada, EC and Japan) at Toronto this weekend, where Andriessen will have talks with U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills. EC Agriculture Commissioner Ray MacSharry and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Madogon are also due to meet next week.

Both sides have also been at pains, in briefing their supporters, to claim progress in the bilateral talks, but not a breakthrough - sometimes leaving the impression on some of their listeners that such a breakthrough is imminent or will be timed for announcement to have maximum results.

But French minister for European affairs, Mme. Elisabeth Grigon, has been quoted as saying that conditions for an agreement have not been met and the Americans and Europeans remain far apart.

Perhaps in relation to reports that at the Birmingham meeting, French President Mitterand will be under pressure from the other eleven to yield (on agriculture), Grigon also is reported as having said that France has asked its partners in Europe for support and solidarity and that in turn France will do the same for others in areas other than agriculture. This appeared to be a polite way of telling Germany or anyone else that French support (on Maastricht or anything else) would depend on how they behave on agriculture.

Other reports from Brussels say that while technically some progress has been made in the U.S.-EC talks, there is still no meeting ground on the issue of the oilseeds dispute, where the U.S. wants the EC to cut back on its Soya production - thus opening up Europe for more imports.

Any agreements with EC, to be concluded, announced and have an effect on the 3 November polls, Bush needs something that would increase U.S. exports of Soya to the EC.

In the absence of such an agreement, even the U.S. may not want to conclude such an agreement on the Uruguay Round and compromise on agriculture.

Some EC sources also say that EC members have come to the conclusion, particularly after the first round of the Bush-Clayton-Perot debate, that Bush would not only lose the elections, but faces the bright chance of ending up below Perot.

In such an eventuality, any agreement with Bush would not be acceptable to the new administration and the Congress, expected to be even more democratically dominated.