5:58 AM Nov 4, 1994


Geneva 3 Nov (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- A strong current of opinion against any formal specialized agency relationships between the future World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations appears to be sweeping through the GATT membership.

This was voiced Thursday evening at an informal heads of delegation meeting of the WTO Prepcom's Sub-Committee on Institutional, Legal and Procedural questions.

Though there were many nuanced views, and some talk of the future WTO taking 'inputs' from other organizations and institutions, of the over a score of delegations that voiced their views, there was not one that came out in favour of such a specialized agency relationship, one of the participants said later.

Those who spoke included Brazil, Morocco, Switzerland, Canada, EU, Brunei Darussalam (for the Asean), US, Australia, Egypt, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Argentina, Norway, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Pakistan, Morocco, Poland, China and Bangladesh.

The discussions, and the view against any close, formal or specialized agency relationships, was kicked off by the Brazilian ambassador, Felipe Lampreia, and was strongly endorsed afterwards by the United States, another participant said.

Lampreia reportedly stressed reasons which Brazil felt was important for making WTO/GATT 'independent' of the UN.

The WTO, in his view, was a contractual relationship, while the UN system had no such in the economic sense. The membership of the UN was also much higher than that of the WTO, and might 'impose' decisions which the WTO had not adopted. As such, the WTO's autonomy should be maintained.

Switzerland (which is not a UN member, and whose voters have turned down membership in a referendum) spoke of GATT being an unique and need to maintain its independence, especially its dispute settlement processes. The Swiss delegate also spoke of the Marrakesh agreement about maintaining the WTO as an independent organization and reportedly said that any specialized agency relationship with the UN would need amendment of the Marrakesh agreement.

Egypt reportedly said that the priority area for relationship was with the World Bank and the IMF, and that relationship with the UN was not important at this point of time. At the same time, the WTO should not have any relationship with the UN that would affect its contractual nature, but have indirect relations that would recognize the differences between the two organizations. The relationships with UNCTAD should however continue and become more comprehensive.

Bangladesh, the last speaker, reportedly said that the WTO should however be open and be willing to take inputs from other institutions.

A number of participants in talking to newsmen afterwards, and explaining their opposition, brought up the talk of an 'Economic Security Council' and said 'we don't want our trading rights to be determined by the Security Council.

This idea of an Economic Security Council was floated in fact by the EC Commission President Jacques Delors and in the UNDP's Human Development Report, and is said to be one of the important recommendations of the socalled Global Governance Commission headed by Sweden's Prime Minister Carlsson and former Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal.

Several of the participants did not evidence any detailed study of the UN charter and the 'binding' nature of its demand that all intergovernmental organizations 'shall' be brought into specialized agency relationship with the UN nor of the fact that such agreements generally provided for each of the secretariats to consult the other before proposing subjects touching the jurisdiction of the other, to their intergovernmental machinery. Nor were they clearly aware that policy changes on debt, adjustment etc by the Bretton Woods institutions have come after the G77 campaign against them in the UN institutions and fora -- UNCTAD, ECOSOC and UN General Assembly.

One participant said that it was mainly a preliminary exchange at a meeting, originally summoned to consider the relationships between the WTO and UNCTAD, and that remarks of several participants from the developing world suggested that there had not been any considered policy decision in their capitals involving trade ministries who service the GATT and foreign offices which speak out at the UN and this might result in same countries expressing different views at New York.

Perhaps having such possibilities in mind, Pakistan's Munir Ahmad -- even while taking the same view about no specialized agency relationship -- is reported to have told the informal heads of delegations meeting that their own colleagues in New York might be having a different view.

Some participants sought to explain to newsmen their stand against any formal relationships with the UN by referring in somewhat derisory tones of the UN being 'politics' and "we deal with economics and technical issues and don't want to mix these.

The irony was lost on them that it was their own colleagues in New York, acting on instructions from their capitals, who have been demanding an overall systemwide development policy and coordination via the ECOSOC and the Commission on Sustainable Development and an Agenda for Development.

Even while disagreeing with many proposals of UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (including the new concepts of 'development' being pushed by UNDP or the Economic Security Council idea), Third World countries in the Group of 77 and China have been calling -- in the wider interface of political, social and economic decisions -- for greater accountability of the Bretton Woods institutions and the trading system to reflect more equitably the needs of developing countries.

Even their own Heads of Governments in various international gatherings and Summit meetings -- ranging from the Earth Summit, NAM, G-15 etc have echoed such views.

One participant responded to these contradictions with the remark "this is politics".