GATT Negotiators Fail to Reach Agreement
The five-year-long world trade talks came to a halt Thursday after an all-night initiative failed to solve disputed issues, leaving GATT chief Arthur Dunkel to salvage a pact with his own draft agreement.
Trade diplomats met in a wide range of negotiating sessions, with at least one beginning at 3:30 a.m., in a mad rush to meet a self-imposed deadline after years of what diplomats describe as “talking past each other.”
Dunkel, director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is scheduled late today to introduce a 500-page text to the 108 participating states in a bid to force the round of talks to a conclusion early next year.
Many points were still unresolved as dawn broke, but Dunkel called a halt and began meeting with the negotiating group chairmen to write in their own proposed compromises where the negotiators had failed to agree.
“Some may have liked to have continued, but it’s too late. They had five years,” one trade official said.
The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of talks, launched in 1986 to free up trade and thus stimulate growth and jobs, is already one year overdue.
The United States and the European Community seemed to be making no headway in their bid to secure a breakthrough in negotiations on cutting farm support, widely seen as the key to a deal on the entire Round.
European Commission President Jacques Delors told reporters in Paris that the two sides were working night and day to reach a discreet agreement, but he said there was only a 25% chance that they would succeed.
He spoke after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Madigan and European Farm Commissioner Ray MacSharry--unusually joined by Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers--met in Brussels for an intensive session on Wednesday that lasted until the early morning.
Dunkel has made it clear that delegations should not seek to make big changes to his complete draft text, or the whole package might unravel.
The two sides did not schedule any meetings for Thursday and were expected to meet again this afternoon.
Madigan will stay in Brussels and U.S. Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills will join the negotiations today.
An annual EC-U.S. ministerial meeting in Brussels on Saturday will provide another chance to negotiate.