Jan 20, 1989


GENEVA, JANUARY 18 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN)— GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel is expected to start, from next week, informal Consultations in the four areas of the Uruguay round agenda where the Montreal mid-term review meeting was deadlocked, GATT sources said Wednesday.

The four areas where there were no agreements at Montreal were: textiles, agriculture, safeguards and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The Montreal meeting had asked Dunkel, in his capacity as chairman of the official-level meetings of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), to conduct high-level consultations on these four items.

On the eleven other items, where some tentative accords were reached at Montreal, the Ministerial mid-term review meeting has put the results "on hold".

A meeting of the TNC at level of high officials is to be held in first week of April to review the entire package of subjects, the results achieved in Montreal and other items.

Since returning from Montreal, Dunkel has been holding consultations informally with various delegations on how to proceed further in the light of the Montreal decisions.

He would appear to have held some as "extended green room" consultations Wednesday, and is due Friday to have a meeting of the TNC, at the level of heads of delegations, to report on the outcome of his consultations and plans in carrying out the tasks entrusted to him by Montreal.

GATT delegations involved in these consultations said that, subject to any decisions and agreements at the Friday meeting, they expect Dunkel to begin from next week "green room type" consultations on the four items.

The first consultation scheduled for January 24 will be on textiles; be followed by consultations on safeguards, TRIPS and agriculture.

The first round of consultations, with three or four days devoted to each subject, is expected to be concluded by February 15.

These consultations are expected to be on the basis of the "pre-Montreal papers" in each of these areas.

Dunkel reportedly envisages that on the basis of these consultations, he would be able to narrow down the gap and be in a position to place some texts, with or without square brackets, for the consideration of governments and the high-official level meeting of the TNC in April.

Dunkel reportedly has ruled out for the moment any "shuttle diplomacy", but concentrate his efforts at Geneva.

Immediately after the Montreal meeting, some GATT officials had spoken of Dunkel undertaking some "Kissinger-type shuttle diplomacy", and going to important capitals.

Participants at Wednesday’s meeting said that while Dunkel did not rule out any visits, it would only be on the basis of some texts that could be evolved.

The Negotiating groups in the eleven other areas, participants said, would not be convened for the present.

However, some participants said that it was their impression that if in any of the negotiating groups there was a consensus to meet informally for any reason, this could be done.

But other participants said that this was not their understanding, since with the results "on hold", there was little that any of the negotiating groups could do, formally or informally, and any effort by any of the chairmen or by any participant to have a meeting could become counter-productive by raising controversies.

Dunkel is also reported to have made the same point Wednesday, and agreed that it was best to concentrate on the substance of the problem before them, and not be involved in unnecessary controversies that would detract from the tasks ahead.

In this view, he is also reported to have suggested postponement of meeting of the Group of Negotiations on Goods (set for March) to appoint or reconfirm chairmen of individual negotiating groups.

The fact that negotiating groups in eleven other areas will not be meeting for the present did not mean the Uruguay round processes have come to a stop, some participants explained.

In the areas where some tentative accords were reached at Montreal, but put "on hold", they expected the Secretariat and the capitals would be doing their own work, whether in preparing data or in formulating proposals to be placed before negotiating groups when they convene.

If the problems in the four areas were solved, and gets a go-ahead at the April meeting of the TNC, there would be no delay in negotiating groups reconvening and carrying out their tasks, including meeting some deadlines set in the results on hold, other participants said.

For example, they said, the Tariff Group is expected to start negotiations from July on the basis of proposals to be submitted by participants.

Governments could do their homework in capitals to be ready with their proposals, and these could be brought before the tariff group, as soon as the way ahead was cleared.

A few of the participants from industrialised countries, particularly Japan and Sweden were reportedly somewhat concerned at the "blockage" in the way of other negotiating groups, and their concern that it would give the impression and set a precedent for the future that for lack of progress in one or other negotiating groups, work on all others could be brought to a standstill.

A few like Malaysia and Hong Kong would also appear to have favoured formal or informal meetings of some of the negotiating groups for technical or other work.

However, this view reportedly was not shared by others, including by New Zealand which reportedly felt that what had happened, far from being a bad precedent, was a good one in that it had highlighted the need for balanced results.

There were also reportedly some suggestions, including by the European Communities, on the need for "flexibility", implying that negotiating groups could be enabled to meet if they wanted.

However, a few others, including Uruguay, reportedly pointed out that if there was flexibility on all sides and if the consultations were successful and solutions could be found in agriculture, for example, there was no reason why the negotiations could not be started even ahead of April.

Participants said that the united states itself appeared more relaxed, and supported the view that procedural controversies would not be helpful and that it had "reconsidered" its own position (originally favouring negotiating group meetings for technical work) and would go along with the ideas of Dunkel.

However, the U.S. reportedly underscored the need to meet the various deadlines set, not merely the final deadline of 1990 to conclude the negotiations.

Dunkel for his part reportedly remarked that the April deadline should not be seen as one for solving all problems in the negotiations, but one to ensure "a substantive step forward is taken in the march of negotiations".

Some participants said that in the consultations Wednesday, it became clear that agriculture was not the only problem area, and that issues like trips and textiles and safeguards too had some knotty problems to be sorted out.

Even in agriculture, they said, it was not merely the long-term issue - about "elimination" or "reduction" of government support that dominated the U.S.-EEC exchanges at Montreal.

There were also important short-term questions, including issues of "credit" (for unilateral restraint actions already taken by some governments), "freeze" (on further government supports and subsidies), and the "down-payment" in the matter of some immediate actions.