Mar 17, 1989
TNC MEET AT HIGH OFFICIAL LEVEL FROM APRIL 5.GENEVA, MARCH 16 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN)— The meeting of the Uruguay round Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at high official level, mandated by the Montreal mid-term ministerial review meeting of the Uruguay round is to begin here from April 5. It will be preceded by "green room" consultations from March 31. The meeting at level of high officials is to consider the out come of the "high-level consultations" being held by GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel on the four issues on which the Montreal meeting was deadlocked and the results in other areas of negotiations in goods and in separate negotiations on services that have been put "on hold" Dunkel is holding consultations this week, on "Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights" (TRIPS) and next week on agriculture, and on all the other subjects (textiles, safeguards and TRIPS). While Dunkel has not yet reportedly formulated his suggestions on paper, he has been giving his "ideas" both at the current cycle of consultations, and on TRIPS in visits to some capitals, GATT sources said. Apart from several TRIPS to Brussels and Washington, since the Montreal meeting, Dunkel has visited Tokyo (during Hirohito funeral), Bangkok (for a meeting with Asian representatives), New Delhi and Buenos Aires to meet with Latin American Cairns Group members. The deadlock on TRIPS relates to the efforts of the U.S. and other industrial countries (ICS) to rewrite the Punta del Este mandate and negotiate substantial new norms in GATT, as also provide for enforcement and dispute settlement through GATT. The TRIPS issue has emerged as the major north-south divide in the Uruguay round. All the industrial countries appear to be fairly united in pushing for GATT norms, in order to protect the current and future interests of their TNCS and to block emerging competition from the third world countries. There is also awareness among most third world countries that no amount of concessions and trade-offs in other areas of immediate benefit to them could compensate for the medium to long-term implications of TRIPS. Third world countries, to whom the idea of negotiations without prejudice was suggested at Montreal, did not agree, insisting that the negotiating group could only clarify existing GATT provisions, apart from the separate mandate dealing with trade in counterfeit goods. The issue of substantive norms and enforcement etc, they said, were subject to other international treaties administered by other organisations, and any issues relating to them had to be taken up in the competent fora. In some ideas that Dunkel has aired in his discussions with key diplomats here, he has reportedly suggested that the negotiators should work on the substantive issues proposed "without prejudice to the mandate" or the competence of GATT. In this view, he has suggested that the TRIPS Group should start work on national treatment, non-discrimination, transparency, standards, availability and scope of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRS), effective and appropriate means of enforcement under national law, and procedure for multilateral dispute settlement. The practical effect of the Dunkel ideas, third world countries say would allow the U.S. and others to formulate rules and disciplines, putting off the issue whether they should be accepted or not till the end, when third world countries could be pressured to yield through unilateral trade action threats (as under section 301 of the U.S. law) or in exchange for a few benefits on minor issues. It would also enable the U.S. to formulate a Tokyo round type code, an idea that it floated soon after Montreal. At an informal meeting of the third world group in GATT last week, this idea of so-called negotiations without prejudice did not find favour, according to third world sources. Third world countries have reportedly put forward to Dunkel their own ideas as an alternative approach and as their contribution to a solution of the deadlock. The TRIPS Group itself, they have said, should deal with what it had been mandated. In this light, the TRIPS Group should identify the circumstances under which measures to secure compliance with laws and regulations relating to IPRS should be considered to constitute a means of arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination and/or disguised restrictions on international trade. The group should also examine those practices in arrangements in license or assignment of IPRS which might result in distortions or impediments to international trade. The TRIPS Group should also expeditiously proceed with its work on trade in counterfeit goods. These measures in the Uruguay round, the third world countries have reportedly suggested, could be complemented by parallel actions in competent international organisations, such as WIPO, UNESCO and UNCTAD, to address issues like further specification of appropriate norms and standards on IPRS, appropriate disciplines for preventing abuse of IPRS, and elaboration of procedures in WIPO for settlement of disputes, and working out disciplines in UNCTAD relating to corporate practices. Work on all these should proceed with due regard to developmental, technological and public interests needs of countries in particular third world countries. The TRIPS consultations this week are slated for Thursday and Friday.