Nov 22, 1988

HEAVY AGENDA FOR MONTREAL MEETING?

GENEVA, NOVEMBER 21 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Ministers of Uruguay round participating countries, when they meet at Montreal from December 5-8 for the mid-term review meeting now seem likely to face a very heavy agenda and very difficult issues to negotiate and resolve.

This assessment was provided Monday by several GATT delegations. Many of them had worked over the week-end informally on texts and recommendations from the 14 negotiating groups in the GATT MTNS in goods, which come under the direct supervision and control of the Group of Negotiations on Goods (GNG).

The full GNG is due to meet Monday to consider and decide on passing on the texts that have so far emerged to the Montreal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.

The informal consultations within the GNG has been conducted by the chairman of the GNG, GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel, since last Wednesday and over the weekend.

GATT participants said that the consultations in fact covered only 12 of the negotiating groups, and did not include the agricultural and tropical products groups.

No report has emerged out of the agricultural negotiating group, and perhaps one might come later this week - after the EEC/U.S. talks in Brussels, and decisions of the EEC Council of Ministers.

In the light of this, the chairman of the negotiating group an agriculture is expected to produce a draft report, which would then have to be approved, formally or informally by its members, before it is passed on to the GNG and through it to the Montreal meeting.

The informal consultations of key countries within the GNG, which has reportedly considered so far the recommendations to Montreal from the 12 other groups, have apparently resulted in texts with a number of alternatives, on which ministers would have to negotiate and decide, in the areas of tariffs, textiles and clothing, safeguards, Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), dispute settlement, and the Functioning Of the GATT System (FOGS).

GATT participants said that they expected similar square-brackets, texts ultimately to emerge on tropical products and agriculture.

Besides these, they said, there would also be square-bracketed texts on services, from the Group of Negotiations on Services (GNS), and from the Surveillance Body, which is responsible for surveillance of the implementation of the standstill and rollback commitments.

One participant noted that in contrast at Punta del Este, the Ministers had really only two controversies to settle: that on agriculture and services.

Another participant noted that this "messy" situation for the Montreal meeting is the result of the efforts of the U.S. to push the course of negotiations in a direction desired by it, and attempting to foreclose many options for others at Montreal.