Apr 8, 1988


BELGRADE APR 6 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Third world countries, members of the "group of 77" have begun here the last lap of their 12-year old journey to set up a mutual preferential system for promoting south-south trade - the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP).

Senior Officials from nearly 50 G77 countries, members of the GSTP Negotiating Committee, began their meetings here preparatory to next week's Ministerial session, which will conclude the first round of negotiations for GSTP.

The first round is expected to end with adoption of the agreement with annexes, including the list of participants in the agreement and the trade concessions exchanged by them, as well as opening the way for the signing of the agreement and entry into force on ratification.

So far, 32 countries have concluded bilateral negotiations for exchange of concessions, and even as the meeting of Senior Official began, several more countries were continuing bilateral negotiations to conclude their exchanges.

The GSTP Negotiating Committee has set the deadline of 19.00 GMT on Thursday April 7 for the conclusion of these negotiations, and Friday April 8 for handing over the schedules of concessions to the secretariat.

The Senior Officials are to finalise the GSTP agreement and its annexes, and prepare the ground for opening the agreement for signature next week at the conclusion of the Ministerial level session of the Committee.

The Senior Officials are also to prepare a Belgrade declaration to be adopted by the Ministers on the future activities related to the strengthening of the GSTP system and the further continuation of the work.

"The completion of the first round", Senior Officials were reminded by the Yugoslav Federal Cecretary for Foreign Trade, Nenad Krekic, "will in no way mean that our task is at an end."

"It will constitute merely the beginning of a system from which the developing countries, and that means the majority of mankind, expect a great deal".

Krekic was welcoming the delegates in a speech which set the tone and pace of the meeting of the senior officials over the next three days.

The Committee set up two working groups, one chaired by Mutatayi Ngole of Zaire to deal with "unfinished business" in the agreement, and the second chaired by Amb. S. P. Shukla of India to prepare the draft declaration to be adopted by Ministers on the work ahead, including preparations for a second round of negotiations.

The Committee decided that the first group should have what was described as the "precise and limited mandate" of filling the gaps in articles 23 an 24 of the agreement, and complete annexes one and four.

Article 23 designates the depository government for the agreement, and article 24 fixes the date from which the agreement would be open for signature and the place.

Annexe one lists the participants in the agreement, and annexe four the schedule of concessions of each of the participants.

The decision to restrict the mandate of the first working group was taken Tuesday night at the meeting of heads of delegations.

The aim was not to subject to renewed debate and attempts to modify the other provisions of the agreement which were finalised and adapted at Brasilia in 1986, and the annexes relating to rules of origin and treatment of least developed countries (LDCS) which were subsequently finalised and adapted at Geneva.

Kosin said that "this precise and limited mandate" for the first working group was approved Tuesday night at the meeting of heads of delegations "because the agreement itself had already been adopted and it is not open for any discussion or debate."

Another issue that came up before the heads of delegations related to the question of inviting China to participate as an "observer" at the meeting.

Kosin reportedly told the heads of delegations that the G77 Foreign Ministers in 1986 had called for China's participation at the Belgrade meeting as an "observer".

However, the rules of the GSTP negotiating committee preclude this, since only G77 countries can be "observers" under the rules. Consultations, Kosin reportedly said in response to Pakistan, were however continuing to find a solution.

The "observer" issue itself did not figure in the negotiating committee, but Kosin referred to the issue of Chinese participation in the GSTP, and reported on the outcome of the "consultations" an this conducted in Geneva by the chairman of the G77.

In the light of the latest round of consultations and report on it by the D77 chairman, Amb. Tobgye Dorji of Bhutan, consultations on the subject (of Chinese participation in GSTP) would continue, Kosin added. _