The secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is ready to host a technical-level meeting to begin work on a new round of tariff-cutting negotiations in July, the organization's director general, Arthur Dunkel, said today.
"But everybody must be in agreement first, and that is not the case at the moment," Dunkel told a press conference. He said he would repeat the offer at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington Wednesday.
The GATT Council, the top policy-making body of the organization that meets about 10 times a year, is scheduled to meet in July, and under normal circumstances would be attended by resident ambassadors in Geneva representing GATT member countries.
Dunkel said, however, that he supports the idea -- floated last month by a seven-man committee of "wise men" appointed to suggest ways of improving GATT's performance -- that the council meet twice a year at the ministerial level. Other GATT sources said that while ministers such as new U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter would not be expected to attend an initial meeting on getting a new tariff round going, such a session could be upgraded from ambassadorial level to include such persons as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael B. Smith, a longtime GATT expert.
Dunkel, who attended last week's meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, said that while most governments appear to support the linkage of a new round of tariff talks with a parallel discussion of ways of reforming the international monetary system, "it has got to be used for advancing negotiations and not blocking them.
"I was not surprised that there was no universal agreement at the OECD talks on a new round of trade talks," he said. "There are some people who are using tactical delays, but there are also other countries which simply do not want to commit themselves ahead of time. What is important is that there is unanimous agreement that we must make an early start on these talks."
Dunkel said he hoped the report of the "wise men" would serve to stimulate discussion at the negotiations. The seven-man committee, chaired by Fritz Leutwiler, former president of the Swiss National Bank, and including Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), recommended that a new round of talks be begun as soon as possible. But the committee warned that such talks were doomed to failure if the current protectionist climate remains unchanged.
The "wise men" also made 15 specific recommendations on actions designed to increase the effectiveness of the world trading system. Dunkel said these recommendations "form a solid basis for the future -- but only if governments take them seriously and don't just pick out the parts which are of interest to them."