9:01 AM Mar 17, 1994


Geneva 17 March (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Attempts of the US, European Union and other industrial countries to set in motion a post-Marrakesh process for bringing new issues on to agenda of the World Trade Organization met with considerable opposition at an informal meeting of Heads of Delegations Thursday.

The HOD meeting chaired by GATT Director-General Peter Sutherland had been convened to recommend a decision for the Marrakesh Ministerial meeting for the establishment of a Preparatory Committee for the WTO, which would come into being when the Uruguay Round agreements come into effect in 1995.

One of the functions for the Preparatory Committee which in limited consultations has been pushed by the USA, EU and other industrialized countries, and was square bracketed in a draft decision before the meeting, provided that the Preparatory Committee is: "to discuss suggestions for inclusion of additional items on the agenda of the WTO's work programme".

The US and EU and others have said that they would want to raise and discuss questions like labour standards and workers rights, social standards, Some of them have also said that trade and trade rights should be linked to human rights.

These issues have been mentioned by President Clinton and his top officials and advisors as part of the next 'Green Round' and the European Union appears to be moving in the same direction.

Using the same tactics as in the runup to the NAFTA vote in the US Congress, the Clinton Administration, and EU members like France, are pushing the line that without such 'side agreements' about a future work programme, it would be difficult for them to get the Uruguay Round accords through their Parliament.

This is a most astonishing line though, given that the major, if not the only real beneficiaries of the Agreements, are the US and European Union and most of the developing countries have gained little or nothing in market access. Any benefits to them are well into the future.

The proposal to have new trade agenda issues as part of a work programme of the Preparatory Committee, when broached in limited consultations earlier this week had been opposed by India and Mexico.

With others remaining silent, the GATT chief and the industrial nations have been suggesting that only one or two countries are opposing this.

Thursday's HOD meeting made clear that some 20 countries were not prepared to accept this. Many of them made clear their opposition to vesting the Preparatory Committee with any mandate other than work relating to facilitation of the entry into force of the WTO, or measures already agreed upon at the TNC in terms of the work to be done relative to the various agreements.

According to some industrialized country participants at the meeting, the statements of a few of these opponents was more in the nature of appeals to the industrial countries not to raise the issue now, and left the impression that their opposition is relatively soft and amenable to change under further pressures.

Some of them are seen as anxious to ensure 'success' at Marrakesh and amenable for a compromise to 'help' US administration and its political compulsions and hence likely to yield to reworded compromises that would leave the door open to bring up any issue in the future.

The US and others argue that if a compromise is not reached, they would bring it up at Marrakesh for ministers to take a decision. But opponents are not impressed and say that ministers should take the political decisions and consequences.

Those who reportedly made clear their opposition to any such recommendation going to the Marrakesh were reportedly India, Brazil, Mexico, Tunisia, Argentina, Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia and Morocco.

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as also Hong Kong, while specifically not rejecting or opposing it, are reported to have taken the view that they did not have enough time to consider and digest the implications of the proposal and thus it would be difficult to negotiate a compromise. before 25 March deadline.

The draft decision (to be taken by Ministers at Marrakesh) before the meeting had proposed the establishment of a Preparatory Committee to be chaired by Peter Sutherland in his personal capacity, and open to membership for all signatories of the Final Act and any GATT contracting party eligible to become an original member. It will cease to exist on entry into force of the WTO.

The Preparatory Committee will have a subcommittee on Budget, Finance and Administration to be chaired by the Chairman of the GATT CPs and a Sub-Committee on services responsible for preparatory work on General Agreement on Trade in Services.

The Preparatory Committee is to take all decisions by consensus.

It is to perform such functions as may be necessary to ensure the efficient operation of the WTO immediately, as of the date of its establishment.

Among the functions relating to administrative, budgetary and financial matters, the Preparatory Committee, is to prepare recommendations on:

a headquarters agreement for the WTO; financial regulations; budget estimates for the first year of operation; transfer of property from the ICITO/GATT to WTO; transfer and terms and conditions of transfer of GATT staff to WTO; and relationship between the ITC and WTO.

Among Institutional, procedural and legal matters, the Preparatory Committee is to carry out examination and approval of schedules (in respect of countries currently negotiating accession and the least developed countries); terms of reference for the WTO bodies and rules of procedure; and make recommendations to the WTO General Council on appropriate arrangements with respect to relations with other organizations.

In a more general terms of reference, the Preparatory Committee is also asked to deal with "Matters related to the entry into force of the WTO Agreement and to activities of the WTO".

Under this heading, the draft decision has listed five items:

(i) To convene and prepare the Implementation Conference;

(ii)o initiate the work programme arising from the Uruguay Round results as set out in the Final Act, such as overseeing, in the Sub-Committee on Services referred to in paragraph 3 above, negotiations in specific services sectors, and also to undertake work resulting from Decisions of the Marrakesh meeting;

[(iii)to discuss suggestions for the inclusion of additional items on the agenda of the WTO's work programme;]

(iv)to make proposals concerning the composition of the Textiles Monitoring Body in accordance with the criteria set out in Article VIII of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing;

(v) To convene the first meeting of the Ministerial Conference or the General Council of the WTO, whichever meets first, and to prepare the provisional agenda thereof.