Oct 16, 1986


GENEVA OCT. 14 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The negotiating committee for the global system of trade preferences (GSTP) among members of the Group of 77 is to hold its next meeting in Geneva on October 29, according the G77 sources.

The committee is to elect a new bureau, and consider a report on the implementation of the plan for technical assistance to participating countries to prepare for the negotiations.

The Chairman of the GSTP negotiating committee is elected for a period of six months, and rotates among the three constituent regions of the G77 - Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The current chairman is Paulo Nogueira Batista of Brazil.

So far about 40 countries, members of the G77, have notifies their intention to participate in the first round of the GSTP negotiations.

The Brasilia declaration set October 1 has the deadline for such notification. However, it is expected that some more countries, particularly from Africa, are likely to notify their intention to participate in the first round, before the negotiation begin.

The GSTP negotiating committee currently has a membership of 63 (or 72 if the members of the CARICOM, which notified its intention to participate as a regional group, or counted separately).

According to the time-table set by the Brasilia Ministerial Declaration of May 23, 1986, countries who have notified their intention to participate in the first round have to submit by December 31, 1986, their "request lists" (lists of products on which they seek tariff or other trade concessions from other participants in the negotiations).

Technical assistance to G77 members to prepare for and participating in the negotiations is under the UNDP project, under an agreement signed by the Group of 77, UNCTAD and the UNDP. UNCTAD is the executing Agency under the project.

The question of China's application for participating in the GSTP negotiations is not on the agenda of the GSTP negotiating committee, but could perhaps come up under "any other business".

The recent Ministerial Meeting of the G77 in New York, which considered the request of China for participation in the GSTP, has asked the negotiating committee, "to examine this matter and to submit its view to the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 preceding UNCTAD-VII".

The New York meeting also agreed "to invite People's Republic of China to participate in the capacity of observer, at the negotiating committee on GSTP meeting at Ministerial Level to be held in Yugoslavia in principle, in September 1987".

The issue however appears to be more complicated than has apparently been foreseen by the G77 Ministerial Meeting in New York.

The original declaration of the Foreign Ministers in 1982, launching the GSTP negotiations, stipulated that the GSTP shall be confined to members of the Group of 77.

Taking advantage of its call for notification to UNCTAD of intention to participate, four non-G77 members notified their desire to participate: Bulgaria, China, Israel and Turkey. But so far none of them have been allowed to participate.

The GSTP negotiating committee, acting within the mandate and parameters set for it by the 1982 Ministerial Declaration has so far confined membership in the committee to only G77 members.

At the Brasilia Ministerial Meeting in may 1986, the GSTP negotiating committee approved its own rules of procedure, and also adopted the agreement on global system of trade preferences, "as a provisional legal framework for the conduct of the first round of negotiations, pending its signature and ratification".

The GSTP agreement, in its article one, define a "participant" as "any member of the Group of 77 listed in annex one which has exchanged concessions and has become party to this agreement in accordance with its articles 25, 27 or 28".

The rules of procedure of the GSTP negotiating Committee, provides that membership of the Committee shall consist of "developing countries members of the Group of 77 which have notifies the committee of their desire to participate in the negotiations".

Under the rules the negotiating committee could admit as "observers":

-- Members of the G77 who are not members of the Committee (by notifying their intention to participate in the negotiations), and

-- Certain categories of institutional members - sub-regional, regional and inter-regional economic groupings of the G77, and representatives of UN and its specialised agencies, who might be invited to participate as observers by the committee.

The provisions of the GSTP agreement itself can be amended, in respect of participation, only by unanimous consent of the members.

The rules of procedure can be amended or suspended by three-fourths majority.

The problem posed by China, some G77 sources here say, are tied to what is to be done with the requests of Bulgaria, Israel and Turkey.

Turkey some years ago was sponsored by the Asian Group of the G77 participation in the G77's ECDC activities, but the G77 itself did not accept this.

As regards Israel, the Arab Members and quite a few others from the G77 are opposed to its being brought into the G77 or its ECDC activities, including the GSTP issue.

This issue of Israel alone, held up for a long time progress on GSTP and ECDC activities in UNCTAD, since the U.S. and Western countries insist on the right of Israel "as a developing country" to participate in ECDC activities organised under auspices of UN

Some G77 sources say that if China is to be brought into GSTP, without its being a member of the G77, then it would be difficult to resist the claims of Bulgaria, Israel or Turkey, or anyone else who might apply in future, without facing charges or arbitrariness.

The fact that the GSTP negotiations now is being financed and run with the support of the ECDC trust funds administered by the UNDP, also poses some problems - about allowing China, but not Israel, Turkey or Bulgaria.

At the same time, there is appreciation of the fact that China has been supporting the G77 in all its stands in UNCTAD and elsewhere.

Some G77 sources suggest that perhaps the best solution to the problem could be by China itself applying to become a member of the Group of 77.

At the time the G77 came into being in 1964 (at the first session of UNCTAD in Geneva), all the countries in the list"A" and list "C" (countries of Afro-Asian and Latin American and Caribbean geographical regions), who signed the 1964 Declaration became members.

The only countries (listed in the Afro-Asian region under list "A") which did not join or were not allowed to were Israel, South Africa and Mongolia.

Israel, which wanted to, was not permitted to sign and join.

Cyprus, which was always listed in the UN among the West European and other countries, but had always functioned politically with the non-aligned and Afro-Asian Group, signed the 1964 Declaration and was a full member from the outset.

China which could have joined at that time, was represented in the UN organs by Taiwan, and neither it sought membership, nor would it have been able to get it at that time.

But, after People's Republic of China took its seat, it has never sought the membership of the Group of 77, and always functioned as a group by itself.

Only recently, with ECDC, and GSTP within it, assuming some operational form and likely to be of potential economic importance, has China sought to be involved in the ECED activities of the Group of 77, and especially in the GSTP, but without formally seeking to be a member of the G77 itself.

Though it has no formal structural basis, according to the practices of the G77, admission to membership has been on the basis of agreement of the regional group to which a country belongs, and by decision of the periodic Ministerial Meetings of the Group of 77 preceding a session of UNCTAD.

The problem never arose in the past for those newly independent countries of the Asian, African, and Latin American regions, who applied for UNCTAD membership, and were listed among countries in list "A" (Afroasian region) or list "C" (Latin American and Caribbean region).

The only cases where specific decisions of the periodic ministerial meetings had been called for were in the cases of Cuba, Malta, and Rumania -each of which presented the G77 with some peculiar problems.

In 1964, when G77 came into being, the Latin Americans did not admit Cuba among their ranks. Cuba became a member of the G77 only in 1971, but even then remained excluded from the deliberations of the Latin American Group in New York until 1975.

Malta, listed among the "Group B" countries in the original UN Resolution setting up UNCTAD, sought G77 membership, and was sponsored by the Asian Group and backed by the nonaligned movement. It was admitted under some special conditions.

Similar was the case of Rumania, a country listed in the U.N. and UNCTAD in list "D" (East European Socialists), but which, from the beginning declared itself a "developing country", and had sought to associate itself with the Group of 77.

The 1976 Manila Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 admitted both Malta and Rumania to membership under specified conditions - whit Malta associating itself with the Asian Group, and Rumania with the Latin American and Caribbean Groups.

At that time, the Ministerial Meeting decided that countries seeking membership:

-- "Should agree to participate in the work and positions of the Group of 77 in all Forums and not only on specific topics and aspects of International Relations",

-- The fact that they belong to "B" (OECD Group) or "D" (East European Socialist Group) would not constitute a problem provided "the country in question did not aspire to elective offices", and,

-- That "initiatives of developing countries members of the group of 77 which do not belong to any of the three regional groups should be endorsed and channelled through any one of them".

It would thus appear that while the next Ministerial Meeting of the G77, prior to UNCTAD-VII, could make China a member (if it applies and is accepted by the Asian Regional Group), it might be difficult for that meeting either to treat China as a member purely for ECDC purposes (without others similarly seeking membership on this precedent).

But if China is made a G77 member, then the way would be opened for the GSTP negotiating committee to act. Otherwise it would involve amendment of the rules of procedure and of the GSTP agreement.