6:14 AM Nov 10, 1994


Geneva 10 Nov (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- GATT Director-General Peter Sutherland warned Thursday that if the US Congress puts off for whatever reason the ratification of the Marrakesh accords, it may put in jeopardy the entire package.

At a press conference to release the GATT study of gains from the Round, Sutherland said it was not an option for Washington to put off action in Congress on the implementation package.

The Congress has been summoned to meet in a lame-duck session and vote on the bills on 29 November and 2 December.

But in the wake of the stunning defeat of the democratic party, and the Republicans gaining control of both Houses, there have been reports that the Republicans might put off the adoption to the New Year to gain credit for themselves.

"This is not an option," Sutherland said. "It will threaten the entire outcome of the Round.

"There is no country in the world where the ratification is an issue of substance in any on-going debate. It would be inconceivable that a country (like the US) which has gained so much of the Round should strike a mortal blow to the system by putting off this debate and vote in the Congress."

This would send shock signals to other countries, business communities and damage the trading system.

None of the other major partners had any substantial problems. The EU had a procedural problem, important within the Community, but not one that the EU would allow to come in the way of ratification and bringing into force the WTO on 1 January.

"Without the US, the major trading partner for a large number of countries, there would be no WTO. If the US fails to ratify there will be no WTO nor can you go back to the previous situation. The whole multilateral trading system will be extremely, seriously and mortally damaged."

There have been some suggestions and reports from Washington that some procedural ways could be found to get the vote into the new Congress. Sutherland's remarks seemed aimed against this.

Some Washington observers believe that if the Republicans controlling the Congress decide to garner credit, they might find a way of quickly ensuring fast-track treatment for the Uruguay Round package even in the New Congress and voting it in. But others warn that if a vote is not taken in the present Congress, the implementing legislation would no longer be amenable to fast-track treatment, and in the new Congress could be subject to line-by-line changes.