6:31 AM Feb 11, 1994


Geneva 11 Feb (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Participants in the Uruguay Round, who are not now members of the GATT but are negotiating accession are to be provided time between now and the entry into force of the Uruguay Round agreements to complete their accession negotiations, file schedules and become original members of the World Trade Organization.

When the Uruguay Round Trade Negotiations Committee meets at Ministerial level at Marrakesh to approve and sign the Final Act, they will be called upon to adopt a decision to deal with such cases.

When the negotiations were concluded at the TNC on 15 December, a 15 February deadline was set for the filing of all schedules (tariff and non-tariff schedules under the GATT), schedules in agriculture and the schedules of initial commitments in services.

The Final Act has also given the least developed countries a year's time (after the entry into force) to file their schedules.

At an informal heads of delegations meeting at the GATT this week, the problem of how to handle the cases of non-GATT countries participating in the Uruguay Round and the LDCs (who wish to become original WTO members) was considered and a modus vivendi reportedly has been reached.

All these categories of countries, and any country which applies for and accedes to the current GATT, would be enabled to submit (before the date for entry into force of the Uruguay Round agreements), its schedules of concessions for GATT 1994 and the specific commitments for GATS to the implementation committee that will be established at Marrakesh.

When these schedules are scrutinised and approved by the implementation committee, they will become schedules to the WTO and enable the countries concerned to become original WTO members.

China's accession is still being held up because of the positions of the US and EC on the 'conditions'. The US has also not so far entered into any market access negotiations with China. If it does, under the present GATT, the US would not be able to invoke the 'non-application' clause against China -- which it can under the GATT 1994 and the WTO.

The implementation committee, consisting of all the TNC members, is to be set up at Marrakesh to facilitate the entry into force of the WTO and a smooth transition from the GATT 1947 to WTO.

GATT 1947, being a provisional treaty, is only a body of contractual rights and obligations among its participating governments, and has no institutional status. Any such status, and the GATT secretariat, continue to function in terms of the Interim Committee for the International Trade Organization (ICITO) set up by the UN in 1947 for the Havana Charter.

The Implementation Committee of the WTO (ICWTO) will, among others, draw up and implement the work programme on trade and environment expected to be mandated by the Ministers at Marrakesh, oversee the negotiations in specific services sectors that will ensue (on financial services, on movement of personnel and on basic telecommunications) and other issues that might be agreed.

The ICWTO will also oversee the ongoing accession negotiations, including drafting of recommendations on some practical aspects (such as time-frame, grace period and monitoring) of the initial overlap of the GATT 1947 and the GATT 1994 under the WTO.

The ICWTO will also make recommendations on the headquarters of the WTO and draw up a negotiating plan for a headquarters agreement with the host country, transitional arrangements for transfer of property etc from the present GATT to the WTO, establish WTO's financial rules, draft budget estimates for the first year of the WTO, and develop WTO provisions on rules of procedure etc.

After the Marrakesh meeting, there will be another ministerial meeting, the Implementation Conference for the WTO. Austria has offered to host it.