Dec 19, 1987


GENEVA DECEMBER 17 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) of the Uruguay round is to meet in mid-February to consider the idea of holding a ministerial level mid-term review towards end of 1988, a GATT spokesman announced Thursday.

The TNC had meet in the morning under the chairmanship of Arthur Dunkel (in his personal capacity), to wrap up the work of the negotiating bodies for 1987.

The spokesman said that the idea of mid-term review had "widespread" support and favoured by "overwhelming majority" of countries’ who spoke. He however conceded in response to questions that some delegations had expressed reservations as to the timing and what should and should not be achieved at such a meeting, but would provide no details.

Other GATT participants however said the issue had not even been on the agenda but had been brought up at the end by Switzerland, and that of some eleven speakers, seven favoured and four had reservations of one sort or other.

Earlier, the TNC had heard reports form the Surveillance Body, and the Group of Negotiations on Goods (GNG) and the Group of Negotiations on Services (GNS), the three items on its agenda.

The chairman of the Surveillance Body, GATT Deputy Director-General M.G. Mathur, noted that so far there had been no single commitment on rollback, and while there had been some consultations on the basis of requests, there had been no commitment to rollback.

The report of the Surveillance Body brought out that so far there had been eight requests for consultations – from the U.S. to Japan; from Uruguay to EEC, Japan and U.S.; from Argentina to EEC, Japan and U.S.; and from Hong Kong to Japan.

Only one consultation between Uruguay and U.S. had been held, while four others had been arranged for Japan with U.S., Uruguay, Argentina and Hong Kong.

Mathur reportedly recalled on this connection the "understanding" announced at the TNC meeting in January, when the Surveillance Body was set up, to the effect that some undertakings on rollback would be communicated before end of 1987.

Chile reportedly raised the U.S. intention to restrict or take away the GSP rights of some third world countries on the ground of alleged absence of workers’ rights. However, the U.S. reportedly declined to discuss the substance, arguing that it should be first taken up in the Surveillance Body.

Participants said that Tanzania had raised some questions on the reports of the GNG and GNS, and said that demands were being made on third would countries like Tanzania to liberalise trade, when even their simplest manufactures like spinning and weaving were put under restraint.

However, the EEC reportedly said that if the TNC began a general discussion it would reopen issues including about the mandate, and the TNC should just take note of the reports.

After this was agreed to, Switzerland reportedly made what it described as "consolidated statement" on the agenda (reports of the three bodies) to express satisfaction at the progress in the negotiations, and called for a mid-term review at Ministerial level, claiming that there was "growing consensus" on this.

Jamaica reportedly commented that this was the first time the issue was being mentioned in the TNC and wondered where the consensus had emerged.

Dunkel, responding to India, reportedly then said all delegations could make "consolidated statements" like Switzerland, whereupon India wanted its own statements in the GNS and GNG to be reflected in the TNC’s proceedings as its consolidated statement.

In the GNS and GNG meetings earlier this week, India had complained that while there had been "optical" progress on technical issues, even the initial phase of work had not been completed and none of the substantive or significant elements of concerns to the third world countries had been addressed.

The mid-term issue was then brought up under any other business, with Switzerland noting the support for it at the 40th session of the Contracting Parties.

Canada offered to host the meeting, while the idea of a mid-term ministerial review was supported by Chile and Nigeria.

Dunkel reportedly clarified that the only basis for any such idea would be the Punta del Este declaration of the Ministers in launching the negotiations which had said that the TNC "shall meet as appropriate at Ministerial level".

Advising "caution", Brazil is reported to have said no one could object in principle to a mid-term review, but the external factors were very important for any such meeting. The world economy and the trading system, and Brazil itself, was entering a very difficult period and it was not possible now to take a decision on the date unless one saw progress in all the negotiating groups, as well as in the outside world.

Sweden welcomed the idea, and suggested negotiators should make good progress in 1988 so that provisional agreements could be reached and the situation could be reviewed.

Japan, U.S., Argentina and Uruguay supported the idea.

India reportedly argued that the chairman of the Contracting Parties Session, in his summing up, had put the issue in proper perspective, and had highlighted the external situation affecting the trade area. It would be premature to discuss the date for a mid-term review, and this would be dependent on progress internally in the Uruguay Round and the external environment.

Perhaps a meeting of the TNC in the spring of 1988 could look at the issue. While India would not oppose a consensus, if there were one, it would look at the issue then in the light of developments.

As to the idea of "early results" for mid-term review, India underscored that the "only negotiated basis" for this lay in section B of part one of the Punta del Este Declaration which related only to the GATT negotiations in goods, and not to part II of the Declaration which related to the separate services negotiations.