The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade averted a major crisis at its annual meeting today by accepting a compromise plan to satisfy a U.S. demand that the $500 billion world trade in services be considered by the organization.
The agreement watered down the original U.S. demand for a working party to study services, thereby meeting the objections of Third World countries, but it enabled the United States to back away from hints that it would block GATT's budget if the services question was not resolved.
The agreement on services provides for an "exchange of information" on national examinations of the services sector.
The organization reached no decision on a new round of global trade negotiations, which the United States and Japan have urged. Paul Luyten, deputy director of external relations of the European Community, told a press conference the EC would not be opposed to such a round but that it should first be prepared by an expert-level meeting of GATT members, which he suggested could be held in mid-1985. But GATT Director General Arthur Dunkel said he did not see anything of this kind happening before 1986 at the earliest.
In exchange for the weakening of the U.S. stand on services, less-developed countries (LDCs) agreed that GATT should begin studying trade in counterfeit goods. The GATT secretariat, which has been collecting information on the subject, will pass this on to a group of trade policy experts, which will study what, if anything, GATT should do on the legal and institutional aspects involved.
The LDCs have been resisting having counterfeit trade considered by GATT, partly because it makes up a substantial part of the foreign trade of some of them, and partly because they believe it should be handled in some other forum.
The organization also adopted the secretariat's report on textile negotiations in 1984, which underscores the deep concern of developing countries over new customs restrictions on textile imports imposed by President Reagan in August. GATT is setting up a working party to consider all aspects of international textile trade, which will report before negotiations begin next July on renewal of the Multi-Fiber Agreement (MFA), which governs such trade. The current MFA expires in June 1986.