Feb 17, 1987
OBSERVER STATUS ISSUE UNRESOLVED.GENEVA FEBRUARY 12 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The question of grant of observer status to international and intergovernmental organisations in the Uruguay round bodies – the TNC, GNG and the GNS, as well as negotiating groups in the GNG – has not so far been resolved, and would come up at the next meeting of the GNG set for April 13, according to GATT sources. At the meeting of the negotiating group on textiles and clothing Wednesday, third world delegations reportedly asked for grant of observer status at meetings of the group to the international textiles bureau, which consists of third world members of the MFA. The request is to be remitted to the GNG for decision. In the three other negotiating groups that also held their meetings this week, the issue of observer status was brought up, but further consideration postponed to the next meetings. The issue of granting observer status to various international and intergovernmental organisations is pending before the GNG, but no decision has so far been taken. Informal consultations held by the GATT Director-General and chairman of the GNG have not resolved differences. But each of the negotiating groups have been asked to consider, and forward its views to the GNG, on the participation in its work of any particular intergovernmental organisation in terms of the functional needs of the particular negotiating group. A number of international organisations, who have been granted "observer" status in the GATT, have sought similar status before the Uruguay round’s TNC, as well as the GNG and the GNS which are to oversee the negotiations respectively in the area of goods and services. Among the organisations that have sought observer status are UNCTAD, IMF, World Bank, WIPO and FAO. The Punta del Este declaration is silent on the issue in the area of goods negotiations, but in the case of the GNS and services negotiations, the declaration provides for secretariat support from GATT and for technical assistance from other organisations as decided by the GNS. In the Tokyo round, the only organisation that was formally invited to attend, and listed as observer from intergovernmental organisations, was the U.N. conference on trade and development, in respect of whom the Ministerial declaration launching that round that some specific provisions. The IMF appears to have attended the Tokyo round’s trade negotiations committee and some of its subsidiary bodies, but on and ad hoc basis. Some of the subgroups of the Tokyo round themselves had sought the participation and assistance of some intergovernmental organisations. The subgroup on customs matters had regularly invited the customs co-operation council to attend its meetings in an expert capacity. The international organisation for standardisation and the international electrotechnical commission were invited to attend meetings of the group on technical barriers to trade. The FAO would appear to have been associated with some of the negotiations in the agricultural area. However, the Tokyo round had been thrown open to all countries, and not merely members of GATT, whereas the Uruguay round is open only to GATT members or countries who are negotiating their accession. With other governments, who are "observers" in GATT, thus specifically excluded from the Uruguay round and its bodies, the issue of grant of observer status to international bodies who are also GATT "observers", and technically have less rights than government observers, has raised some problems and sensitivities. There has also been some general reluctance to give all international organisations "observer" status and place at meetings, and thus "crowding out" the negotiating Contracting Parties. There has been a suggestion that only those organisations whose work and mandate has a specific trade focus, and which grant reciprocal status in their deliberative and negotiating bodies to GATT, should be given observer status in the Uruguay round. There is also the feeling that if at all any observe presence should be restricted to formal meetings of the GNG and the TNC, and all observers excluded from negotiating groups, except those needed by a particular group form its won functional viewpoint. Negotiations, and preparations and discussions about them, are confidential matters purely for the negotiating parties, and there is no need for international and intergovernmental organisations to be present, is one view. Another has been that those who have a wider interest in trade and development, like UNCTAD, World Bank and IMF could be allowed. Decisions on these as on other matters within the GNG and the TNC would have to be by consensus, and this means any strongly held views against observers may ultimately prevail.