Jan 31, 1991


GENEVA, JANUARY 30 (BY CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel is holding consultations here later this week - beginning with senior officials from the EC and U.S., then extending it to the Cairns Group and then to others - to evolve a "platform" for agricultural negotiations and use it to restart quickly the entire Uruguay Round negotiations, Third World diplomats reported Tuesday.

Dunkel indicated this when addressing the informal group of Third World countries in GATT Tuesday and answered questions.

Some participants said he more or less repeated his statements at the 15 January informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and continued to project an air of "cautious optimism" for revival of the collapsed talks.

However others viewed his remarks as "over cautious" and trying not to raise expectations unduly.

The meeting of the informal group was at Dunkel’s instance, purportedly to keep Third World delegates informed and provide transparency to his current consultations.

The EC's chief negotiator, Hugo Paemen, and the Director-General for Agriculture, Mr. Guy Legras are coming here for the consultations with Dunkel and so is Peter Field the chief negotiator for Australia which chairs the Cairns Group. A senior U.S. official, Julian Katz is also expected to come for the consultations.

In what he reportedly described as "consultations in concentric circles" Dunkel reportedly plans to meet separately with the EC and U.S., and then with the Cairns Group members, to evolve a "platform" for agricultural negotiations.

He told the Third World group Tuesday that he was not expecting to get the agreement of everyone on the "platform" but would try to evolve one that would not be rejected by anyone either.

If he is able to evolve such a platform, he would then restart negotiations in all areas, as he indicated at the informal of the TNC meeting on 15 January.The Dunkel meeting and reports after the EC Vice-President and External Relations Commissioner, Franz Andriessen's, discussions last week at Punta del Este with a group of Latin American Ministers, and his subsequent visits to Washington and Ottawa, have however provided some contradictory signals about the prospects and even about the real intentions of the majors.

At Punta del Este, Washington and Ottawa, Andriessen reportedly found others agreeing with him on the need to revive the talks and to conclude agreements in the Round.

However, he did not apparently find much enthusiasm for the EC's view that this should be done by "scaling down" of ambitions in agriculture and on the basis of what the EC indicated it would do at Brussels on the final day of the negotiations - cutting domestic support by about 30 percent, putting a volume ceiling on subsidised exports and assuring minimum market access and growth while rebalancing the border protection.

There have also been reports that in Washington, Andriessen did not discuss the agriculture issue and what the EC would do, but rather discussed with U.S. Trade Representative, Mrs. Carla Hills on the procedures for revival of the negotiations and concluding them successfully with a package.In this scenario, the "scaling down" of ambitions (in terms of concessions to be expected from the EC) would have to be matched by scaling up of ambitions in other areas including services, intellectual property etc, to enable the U.S. administration to sell it to the Congress and get an extension of fast-track authority for trade negotiations under the 1988 U.S. trade law.The U.S. administration's plans to get such extension of fast-track authority is itself known to be running into trouble because of opposition from some of its domestic lobbies over the Mexican Free Trade Agreement.

Any extension of fast track authority under the 1988 law would apply to any trade negotiations, multilateral in GATT or bilateral.

Meanwhile, Andriessen has been quoted in the European media as having blamed the demands of Latin Americans and Third World countries on agricultural reforms as the obstacle to the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round.

According to reports reaching Geneva from the Punta del Este talks, a number of the Cairns group members and particularly Argentina and Brazil would appear to have made clear that liberalisation of agriculture was a very important issue for them and that it would be even more difficult for them to accept any package that did not scale down the ambitions and demands on their countries in the new themes and areas.