Jan 24, 1989
DUNKEL GETS GO-AHEAD AT INFORMAL TNC MEETGENEVA, JANUARY 20 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN)ó GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkelís plans for informal "green room" consultations on outstanding issues in the Uruguay round - textiles, safeguards, Trade-Related Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) - got the go-ahead Friday at an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC). The meeting at the level of heads of delegations was attended reportedly by about 60-65 countries. Over 100 countries are participating in the Uruguay round, but not all of them have missions in Geneva. Under the program and plans indicated by Dunkel and Okayed by, the delegations, consultations on textiles and clothing would begin on the afternoon of January 24, and is expected to last three days. The current schedule for the other three issues are: safeguards January 31-February 1, TRIPS February 2 and, if necessary, February 6-7, and agriculture February 13-15. A GATT spokesman said the participants in the informal consultations, which would be more or less on the "Montreal model", would be decided by Dunkel after consultations. The Uruguay round negotiating processes were brought to a dead halt on December 9 at Montreal by the Latin American members of the Cairns Group (with the tacit support of most other third world participants), when the U.S. and EEC, who were feuding over agricultural trade issues, decided to put aside the issue (to pursue the negotiations in Geneva) and wanted the mid-term review meeting to continue negotiations on all other issues and take decisions. Besides agriculture, at that point of time, three other items remained unresolved - textiles and clothing, safeguards and TRIPS. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay said "no" to the U.S.-EEC proposals. Ultimately, the Montreal Ministerial-meeting unanimously decided to mandate Dunkel to carry on high level consultations on the four outstanding areas, on the basis of the original papers received from Geneva. The TNC also decided that meanwhile the results achieved in Montreal in eleven other areas would be put "on hold", and that the TNC would meet in Geneva at level of high officials in the first week of April to review the results as the Dunkel efforts in the four areas, the Montreal outcome and other outstanding issues, and take decisions. Dunkel who had been holding some intense consultations, bilateral and plurilateral, with a number of delegations for the last two weeks, outlined friday the negotiation and consultation processes that he planned to pursue over the next two months, and got the approval of the heads of delegations. A GATT spokesman said that Dunkel had decided to hold consultations in Geneva, and had no intention "to indulge in shuttle diplomacy". While he had been to Washington and Brussels, Dunkel planned to concentrate on work in Geneva and the remaining issues and start to bring together texts in each area. Dunkel might have more direct contacts with governments if needed at later stage. While the informal consultations would be among limited number of participants, Dunkel would report periodically to informal meetings of heads of delegations. Dunkel reportedly told the informal TNC meeting that he had to find a balance between effective and efficient negotiations, which could only be done in small groups, and ensuring transparency and flexibility. Dunkel reportedly stressed that while the work in the four areas would continue in Geneva, he expected governments in capital to do their own background work on all the subjects, on the Uruguay round agenda. While the negotiating groups in eleven other areas would not meet before April (when the TNC is to meet to take decisions), they would be "on call". A GATT spokesman explained "on call" by saying that if Dunkel at any stage wanted some technical inputs he could convene a meeting of the negotiating group or working group on agriculture. However, since agriculture is not one of the areas where results are "on hold", the spokesman's intention in the choosing agriculture as an example of what would happen to a negotiating group on call, was not clear. Participants in the negotiations said the term "on call" normally meant continuous sessions with timings of meetings undetermined and likely to be at very short notice. Dunkel, they said, had clarified that this was not the intention, and he had presumably used the words "on call" to mollify those who wanted the other negotiating groups to start meeting formally or informally, and that there would be no meetings of any of the negotiating groups in the other eleven areas. At Fridayís meeting Dunkel reportedly said during the consultation processes on the four areas over the next two months or so, there was nothing to stop delegations meeting informally at bilateral or plurilateral levels. The secretariat too would be doing its own work to ensure that "we have a fast restart on all the issues once the Montreal process is completed". The Indonesian delegate, Amb. Wisber Loeis, is reported to have underscored Dunkelís remarks about "transparency" and said that since smaller delegations could not be present in the "consultations", meetings of heads of delegations should be held oftened to keep everyone informed. Referring to Dunkelís remarks that he did not plan any shuttle diplomacy, Loeis reportedly sought clarifications over western media reports that Dunkel had visited Brussels and Washington. Dunkel reportedly said that he was keeping in touch with everyone. The EEC spokesman, Tran Van-Thinh, reportedly intervened to say that issues in agriculture involved not only the EEC and the U.S. but also others, and agriculture was not the only area of difficulty. Some participants later said the comments of Indonesia reflected the general concern among third world delegations about the "green room consultation" process in GATT (and in Montreal), and the feelings among a number of delegations that solutions to the problems could not be found merely by U.S.-EEC compromises.