Sep 25, 1992


GENEVA, 24 SEPTEMBER (TWN) -- GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel has made a strong plea to governments to quickly conclude the Uruguay Round on the basis of his Draft Final Act proposals, arguing that "they should not allow the best to become the enemy of the good".

Dunkel's plea was in an address at San Francisco to the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council.

The text of his speech was released in Geneva by the GATT press office.

The plea comes even as negotiators, in the wake of the razor-thin approval of the Maastricht treaty by the French public and the turmoil on the currency markets, are increasingly pessimistic of any deal being struck this year.

According to diplomatic reports here, at this week's meeting of the EC Agriculture Ministers in Brussels, the French in effect have tried to reopen even the agreement within the EC over the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and received support not only from Ireland but Germany too.

With Bush and his chances of re-election increasingly in doubt, and the French government digging its heels in after the Maastricht referendum, observers here believe that no serious business on the Round can be expected till in the New Year.

Also, the major trading partners are looking to regional solutions the U.S. via NAFTA and other bilateral pacts, the EC via an expanded European area and association agreements, and Japan moving towards a new version of the pre-war co-prosperity zone.

Also, in this process, the majors are getting their way vis-à-vis the developing countries, forcing them to accept, without any return concessions, the draft proposals in Dunkel's DFA in the new areas including intellectual property rights and services.

In addressing this situation, Dunkel argued before his American audience that multilateralism and regionalism were not alternatives and "will either live together or die together. The one cannot prosper without the other or at the expense of the other".

He noted that negotiators developing regional agreements (MERCOSUR, NAFTA, etc.) had been making use of the draft agreements in the DFA, and large chunks of the services, intellectual property and other rule-making texts emerging from the Round were being taken up at the regional level "while we remain almost paralysed at the multilateral level".

"...What is on the table in the Uruguay Round is already seen, and rightly so, as quite indispensable to regional integration while some of the governments involved are unable to find the strength to bring the Round in all its aspects to a conclusion".

Dunkel added: "I have spent some months attempting to convince the political figures on whom we depend for a decision to conclude the Round that they should not allow the best to become the enemy of the good ... my message for world leaders, be they in world of politics or business, must be this: don't haggle over percentages; you have achieved much already, enough to create the system our world desperately needs to secure new economic opportunities. If you act now the world and future generations will thank you for your wisdom".

Though the GATT is the most non-transparent multilateral process and the Uruguay Round and its processes have been conducted in privacy by technical negotiators, with the public largely kept in ignorance, Dunkel who chairs the negotiating process as chairman of the Trade Negotiation Committee earlier made a reference to the Maastricht treaty problems to add: "The days when trade negotiations could begin, end and their results implemented with neither public interest nor discussion have now gone ... as with the Treaty of Maastricht, these results have an increasingly real and, sometimes immediate, effect on the day-to-day experience and fortunes of the man or woman in the street ... and as citizens have come to realise this, they have developed a thirst for information. They cannot be told, any longer, ‘trust us, this is all a bit complicated for you to understand, just sign here’. No, if government is no longer adequately respected in many parts of the world, it may partly be because citizens are tired of political rhetoric and wish to be treated as adults".