Apr 11, 1988


BELGRADE APRIL 7 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) The government of Yugoslavia is to be designated as the "depository" of the agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) among developing countries.

Since the GSTP will be an international treaty not open to universal membership, a "depository" other than the United Nations has to be designated.

The agreement is to be opened for signature here from April 13.

A working group of senior officials, looking into the "unfinished" parts of the GSTP agreement adopted at Brasilia have agreed to make these recommendations for finalising articles 23 and 24 of the GSTP agreement, which deal with these two points.

The working group is also to finalise annexe one, the list of participants in the agreement, and annexe four, the schedule of concessions of each of the participating countries.

Meanwhile, the bureau of the meeting extended till Friday, 11:00 GMT the deadline for conclusion of bilateral talks for exchange of concessions.

Till Thursday night, 12 more countries had completed their negotiations and exchanges concessions, bringing the total for forty-four. This included Malaysia. Philippines, and Thailand, Qatar, Vietnam, Mozambique, Morocco, Tanzania, Haiti, Cameroon and Guinea. .

Countries which have exchanged concessions, and thus eligible to sign the agreement, are expected to meet Saturday when the schedules will be opened and scrutinised as a preliminary to their multilateralisation among all participants on the most-favoured nation principle.

Meanwhile, a second working group chaired by Amb. S. P. Shukla of India was considering the content and language of a draft "Belgrade Declaration", to be issued by the Ministers next week at the end a this Third Ministerial meeting of the GSTP Negotiating Committee.

Among others, the declaration is expected to set in motion the preparatory processes for the next round of negotiations in the GSTP, which is expected to embrace all the components of the GSTP, set out in the agreement.

According to article four of the agreement, the GSTP - a preferential trading system for the member states of the "Group of 77" (G77) - is to consist of arrangements relating to tariffs, para-tariffs, non-tariff measures, and direct trade measures including medium and long-term contracts, and sectoral agreements.

By common consent, the first round launched at Brasilia in 1986 and to be concluded here, has focused on exchange of concessions on a product-by-product basis and in the area of tariffs.

The Main effort has been to exchange concessions and enables the agreement to be signed and brought into force as early as possible.

In the discussions in the working group, a number of participants reportedly called for strengthening the terms of the declaration with political inputs.

They are also said to want the declaration to highlight the important step being taken here by third world countries in forging their first inter-regional operational and legally binding agreement for mutual co-operation, and one that will contribute to their efforts at restructuring international economic relations and establishing the nieo.

One participant later commented that third world countries so long accustomed to issuing declarations and rhetorical statements were yet to become accustomed to the fact that at Belgrade they were moving to the next stage of mutual co-operation, namely a binding treaty among themselves.

He said they were still trying to evoke the language and content of their past declarations addressed to the north.

In the substantive area of content, the major discussion about the declaration would appear to have centred on the issue of using this meeting to launch the second round of negotiations.

Some countries, mainly from Africa, appear to be reluctant to do this, and have been urging the need for "consolidation" of measures already taken and the trade concessions being exchanged.

While their reasoning is not entirely clear to others, several African countries which have not negotiated and exchanged concessions (and thus, will not be able to join now at the outset), would appear to feel that before new rounds are launched under GSTP, these other countries should be given time to join or accede to the agreement.

At one stage, some of the proponents of this view even canvassed the idea of keeping the process of negotiations for exchange of concessions, and signing of the agreement, open until the entry into force.

However, it was pointed out that this was legally impossible, and substantially unfair to those who have concluded bilateral negotiations and would be filing their schedules of concessions, so far kept secret, and multilateralising them by signing the agreement.

A number of other participants, mostly from Asia and Latin America, feel that the impetus for south-south trade co-operation imparted by the successful conclusion of the first round of negotiations and the signing of the GSTP agreement, should be taken advantage of and the momentum maintained and "dynamism" imparted to the GSTP process.

Toward this end, these participants argue a second round of negotiations should be launched both to cover other "components" of GSTP that did not receive attention in the first round, as well as to extend product coverage and deepen the preferences.

They note in this regard that the GSTP agreement envisages there should be a succession of rounds to broaden the participants and extend the range of concessions to products embracing all the components of the GSTP.

There was also the political imperative of enlarging the participation in the GSTP and persuading more G77 countries to join.

This process of access by new G77 countries, it was noted, would be easier in a new round (where the negotiations for accession could be carried out with existing participants in one place), rather than the normal process, which might involve bilateral talks by the acceding country in the capitals of each of the participants in the GSTP.

However, some who agree with the need for launching a new round argue that technically only the "committee of participants" which would come into being after entry into force of the agreement could launch the further rounds of negotiations.

Keeping this in view, a compromise is expected to emerge for setting in motion here the preparatory process for the next round, to be undertaken by the signatories to the agreement and those other members of the Group of 77 which signify their intention to participate in the next round.

This preparatory process would be carried forward further when the GSTP agreement enters into force.