6:26 AM Jan 27, 1994


Geneva 26 Jan (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The tendency towards regionalism and regional trade arrangements for customs unions and free trade areas, and the need for GATT to take a new look at them was adverted to by several contracting parties at their annual session which ended Thursday.

With the Uruguay Round negotiations just concluded, and minds of contracting parties focusing on the work ahead and questions relating to the implementation phase, the CPs session was even more non-controversial than is normal.

But in his concluding remarks Wednesday, winding up the session, the Chairman of the GATT CPs, Amb. Balkrishan Zutshi of India repeated his call for a mechanism to monitor the results and consequences of the Uruguay Round agreements on individual countries, and ways and means of compensating the losers.

The GATT Council Chair, Andr s Szapesi, in introducing the report of the GATT Council adverted to these and spoke of the need for a look at procedures to scrutinise various agreements notified to GATT and their GATT compatibility.

During the discussions on GATT activities, Japan said that in some parts of the world there were lingering inclinations towards unilateralism, bilateralism and managed trade and potentially worsening signs of regionalism.

Australia agreed that there was a pressing need to revitalise the examination of regional arrangements and ensure they were genuinely open and strengthen the GATT system.

Switzerland said more work needed to be done on the question of customs union, free trade agreements and the tendency towards regionalism.

A number of panel reports and recommendations which either remain blocked or having been adopted have not been implemented or only partially implemented figured in a number of speeches.

Costa Rica, on behalf of the Latin American banana exporting countries, referred to the report of the panel on the EC's banana regime (which had been replaced from 1 July by the new single market regime) and wanted its adoption. Costa Rica complained about the EC refusal to accept the ruling and the damage being caused to the trade of Latin American banana exporting countries.

The European Community which has blocked the adoption in the GATT Council last July, maintained its opposition, merely referring to its stand in the Council at that time.

Among other long-pending cases, Japan referred to a 1987 ruling against the US over S. 337 of its tariff act (enabling discriminatory treatment in patent violation cases as between domestic and foreign goods). The US which in accepting the ruling had said it would implement it in the context of Uruguay Round accords, repeated its stand.

Venezuela raised the question of the tuna fish ruling against the US, in a dispute raised by Mexico. Mexico, after the report had been presented to the Council, had however reached an understanding with the US and has not moved for adoption of the report. Venezuela, which had intervened as an interested party, noted that a second panel on the same issue was in the process of completing its work, and complained of the trade damage to it.

Among other complaints over non-implementation or partial implementation, was Canada's complaint over lack of progress (by the US) in implementing a panel ruling against US state and local practices on beer and alcoholic beverages.

New Zealand complained of Japan's partial implementation of a panel ruling on imports of agricultural products (at issue are import restrictions on some beef, dairy products and starch). Japan said the problem had been dealt with in terms of the Japanese offers and commitments in the Uruguay Round.

Australia complained of Canadian safeguard actions against imports of boneless beef and sought formal notifications.

The United States wanted the European Community for a report on the EC's transition measures over German unification -- where the EC got a waiver, which has been extended, but has to present an annual progress report.

In other comments, the European Community expressed some concerns over the US-Japan framework agreement and lack of details. Japan however clarified that the benefits of the agreement would be extended to all countries on an MFN basis.