Apr 15, 1988


BELGRADE APRIL 13 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – A journey that began 12 years ago in Mexico City came to a successful end here Wednesday with the conclusion of the agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP), and its being opened for signature.

This is the first inter-regional agreement of the countries of the third world for promoting and expanding south-south trade, and creates contractual rights and obligations for participants.

"What had seemed only two years ago an almost impossible objective has become a reality... that demonstrates the determination, political will and true spirit of solidarity of the developing countries," the chairperson of the ministerial session, Yugoslav Federal Executive Councillor Ibrahim Tabakovic, declared before beginning thinning ceremony.

"By establishing the GSTP, we have transformed collective self-reliance from wards into a commitment of historic proportions," Tabakovic said.

"The message that goes out from here to the international community is that developing countries are capable of influencing events and rewriting international economic relations by forging ties among themselves, expanding their mutual trade and invigorating their economics. This process is now irreversible."

Forty-eight 'group of 77' (G77) countries ended here their first round of negotiations for GSTP with the exchange of preferential tariff concessions an a range of products -- agricultural and mineral, raw materials and processed and semi-processed manufactures, labour-intensive and sophisticated industrial goods. (More/IFDA)

When they sign and ratify the agreement, the signatories will be multilateralising the concessions they have exchanged bilaterally, and incorporated in their schedules annexed to the agreement.

Forty-six of them signed the agreement at a simple ceremony in Belgrade’s Sawa Centre, at the conclusion of the third Ministerial session of the GSTP Negotiating Committee, which completed the agreement and adapted the Belgrade declaration.

The declaration opened the agreement for signature, and appealed to signatories to take steps to ensure early ratification and entry into force.

While taking note of the conclusion of the first round of negotiations, the declaration in effect called for beginning the next.

The signatories, and other G77 countries interested in joining the next round, were asked to begin the preparatory processes for the next round of GSTP negotiations aimed at extending the country and product coverage, and embracing all the components of the GSTP.

Of the 46 countries that signed the agreement here, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Korea did so definitively, while others did so subject to ratification.

Two countries -- Benin and Cameroon -- could not sign since they did not receive in time the necessary special credentials authorising them to do so, but they could sign at Belgrade in the near future.

The agreement remains here with the Yugoslav government, the depository under the treaty, for signature until the time of entry into force -- 30 days after 15 countries drawn from the three G77 regions deposit their instruments of ratification.

With the two definitive signatures, 13 ratifications are needed for entry into force.

While 45 countries had negotiated bilaterally concessions up to April 9, the deadline set for the individual countries to file their schedules and have them annexed to the agreement to become a participant, three more -- Angola, Guyana and Zimbabwe -- were also enabled to join by a special procedure evolved by the bureau of the negotiating committee and the 45 countries which had negotiated bilateral accords and whose concessions had become known.

This procedure involved the three late-comers furnishing their "offers to all" 45 participants who, after an informal meeting among themselves and then with the three, accepted the offers and agreed to the three annexing their schedules to the agreement and thus becoming participants.

However, at the final plenary Wednesday morning, before the adoption by ministers of theist and the annexes and opening them for signature, Guyana complained that tad been subject to special conditionalities, and that there had been lack of transparency and adoption of leg IRC and bureaucratic approaches.

Guyana was supported by Trinidad and Tobago, one of the 45 which had concluded bilateral accords earlier.

However, it was noted that Angola and Zimbabwe remawlent and did not associate themselves with Guyana.

After the meeting, some among the 45 privately regretted the remarks of Guyana, noting that in fact the 45 had made a political gesture to the three, particularly to Zimbabwe, which chairs the (...) and its minister who had sought a way to join the agreement now, explaining the difficulties some of them had faced in concluding accords.

If anyone had been put to disadvantage, a member of the bureau explained, it was the 45 who had lost their "initial negotiating rights" in a contractual arrangement, and had agreed to forego any concession they could have obtained in a new product either directly from the three or from their bilateral accords with anyone when they were multilateralised.

Earlier, Amb. Marko Kosin of Yugoslavia, the chairperson of the GSTP negotiating committee, in reporting to the ministers ' an the work of the senior officials, referred to the issue of China's participation in the GSTP, and to the consultations held in Geneva by the chair of the G77 and discussions here.

Kosin said that since China's participation in GSTP would be conducive to promoting trade and trade relations among third world countries, "it is recommended that the process of consultations in Geneva should be continued in order to seek a speedy solution acceptable to all parties concerned.