Oct 11, 1990


GENEVA, OCTOBER 9 (BY CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN)ó GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel gave Tuesday an upbeat view of the Uruguay Round negotiations - that negotiators had agreed to a tight time-table to accelerate their work and reach agreements, leaving only very small essential points for ministerial decision at Brussels.

But his remarks and answers at a press conference, seemed to lack his usual ebullience and failed to carry much conviction, leaving newsmen with the impression that, with just seven weeks to go the negotiations are running out of steam and Dunkel himself is no longer sure of the outcome.

Dunkel is travelling this week to Canada where he is due to attend the quadrilateral meeting of the world's four major trading blocs - U.S., Canada, Japan and the EEC.

While Dunkel sought to portray it as no different from his visits to capitals of any GATT Contracting Party, and he would bring the four up to date on the state of play in the round, his participation has already raised some eyebrows in GATT.

Some Third World observers fear that, since Dunkel would not be able to pressure the "big four" to resolve their mutual fundamental differences, he could end up by coming back to pressure Third World countries to concede enough to the U.S. and EEC to enable the latter to reach some bilateral deals and announce success.

The programme of work between October 15 and November 12 suggest that Dunkel could be envisaging the same tactics and approach as in April 1988 when, after the failure of the Montreal ministerial meeting, he promoted mid-term accords in four deadlocked areas of agriculture, textiles, safeguards and intellectual property rights.

At that time he had persuaded the U.S. and EEC to agree on some procedural compromises on Agriculture that masked their basic differences, used it to pry away the Third World members of the Cairns group, particularly from Latin America, from their common stand with the rest of the Third World countries on intellectual property rights, and then forced accords that favoured the ICs.

Dunkel told newsmen that at the informal TNC meeting at level of heads of delegations tuesday afternoon a programme of work had been agreed upon under which agreements would be reached in as many areas as possible by November 12.

Only a few questions, he added, would be left for decisions by Ministers at their meeting in Brussels beginning 3 December.

In the week of November 12, he added, there would be a meeting of the Group of Negotiations on Goods (GNG) to make a global assessment. That would be in pursuance of the mandate to make an appraisal of the outcome from the perspective of the Third World.

The informal TNC meeting had lasted only ten minutes, and the accelerated schedules had been approved and "we are moving towards a very substantial package of results ... and the time for trade-offs has come", Dunkel asserted in an effort to reassure newsmen, etc., Dunkel said, but backed away when he was asked whether there was also a draft text on textiles.

Asked why he thought his new deadlines would hold when the deadlines set by the TNC in July had already slipped, Dunkel asserted that he had received confirmation from the EC that the October 15 deadline for filing offers would be met, adding "But I did not say the calendar will be respected in all details".

Asked whether there was a danger of failure of the Round, Dunkel hesitated before replying that a tragic situation would face a number of GATT CPs if the system broke down and that it would jeopardise countries which had launched a reform process based on open markets, as was the case of newly emerging democracies of Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe.

But the stronger trading nations would also suffer by failure and this could prove an incentive for everyone to make progress and succeed, he suggested.

The work programme agreed tuesday call for all offers including in agriculture, textiles, natural resource-based products and tropical products being tabled by 15 October, with "non-stop negotiations" thereafter.

By 19 October, agreed texts are to be readied on rules of origin, preshipment inspection, technical barriers to trade, import licensing, government procurement, customs valuation, GATT Articles and dispute settlement.

In the next week, by October 27, texts are to be readied on Functioning of the GATT System, anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures and TRIMs.

November 2 is the final deadline for agreed texts in textiles, agriculture, safeguards, TRIPs and services.