Mar 20, 1991

TRIMS CLUSTER TO DISCUSS SOME "TECHNICAL ISSUES".

GENEVA, 18 MARCH (TWN) Technical discussions on an "effects oriented" approach to Trade-related Investment Measures (TRIMs) are to be undertaken in the current stage of the Uruguay Round process, but with unresolved differences on its details and scope.

This would appear to be the outcome of Monday's "cluster consultations" on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and TRIMs, chaired by Arthur Dunkel.

Everyone appeared to be agreed in the consultations that the outstanding issues in TRIPs are political and not technical and hence there was no scope for technical work in this area and substantive negotiations could be taken up only (after U.S. fast-track approval) when the time-horizon for the negotiations are clearer.

TRIMs is one of the areas where the Brussels meeting had no draft text, with the leading ICs seeking a prohibition approach and Third World countries refusing to consider any proposals other than case-by-case effects approach of TRIMs - dealing with individual cases where TRIMs of countries have an adverse "trade-distorting" or "trade-restrictive" effect. As a result the meeting only had some commentaries and questions.

In his work programme for restart of the Uruguay Round process, Dunkel had suggested that at this stage of the process, technical discussions could elaborate a workable "effects test".

In the discussions Monday a number of Third World countries reportedly pointed out that while they were willing to have technical discussions, the issues were such that very quickly each of the issues would involve substantial and political questions.

Argentina asked whether, to undertake this work, there was enough information, on a case by case basis, available on investments and their trade distorting effects. India, Philippines and several others supporting this view stressed the difficulties in separating the technical and political and substantive issues.

Any technical work on a case-by-case effects approach, India would appear to have said should not only cover trade-distorting or trade-restrictive effects but also "trade-creating" effects.

Third World countries have taken the position in the TRIMs negotiations that their investment measures are trade-creative and not restrictive and aimed at countering the corporate restrictive practices of the TNCs and their investment measures.

India, supported by Brazil and Colombia, would also appear to have suggested technical work on Restrictive Business Practices (RBPs) and on the development dimension of TRIMs.

These two are among the questions or commentaries addressed to the Brussels Ministerial meeting.

However, the U.S. was opposed to any technical work on RBPs.

Dunkel reportedly said that since there was no consensus on RBPs, this could be taken up later.

India, supported by Australia, Mexico and Philippines said technical work could take place on an effects test, despite the fact that it will come up against substantive political issues, provided statistical information would be available.

The Nordic countries thought that technical work could also be attempted on many terms used - like products, "significant increase" in exports etc in the various TRIMs proposals and texts.

Dunkel is expected to put forward a check-list of questions or issues that could be addressed at the next meeting for which no dates have been set, but will be decided in consultations.