With fewer than three months remaining before a Dec. 15 deadline for the massive rewriting of the rules governing world trade, the leaders of the three major international finance and trade organizations issued a rare joint statement Monday, warning that failure to complete the task would have dire consequences for the world economy.
The three--the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade--raised the concern that a failure to complete the talks on time would give rise to increased protectionism.
Later, Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative, and Sir Leon Brittan, the European Community’s commissioner for external affairs, met in an attempt to resolve transatlantic differences over the trade talks and reported “progress in a number of areas.”
But they declined to specify where they have made advances and made it clear that serious differences remain over agricultural issues, long a major source of dispute in the talks.
“With so much at stake, political hesitations and vested interest must be put aside. Courageous and visionary decisions need to be made quickly,” the World Bank, the IMF and GATT said in their statement.
The Uruguay Round of trade talks is intended to produce new rules governing international commerce in such areas as banking, insurance, agriculture and cultural endeavors, with the overall goal of reducing tariffs, protecting intellectual property and allowing greater cross-border commerce that would boost employment.
Among the issues that have stalled progress is a dispute between France and several of its partners in the European Community over adherence to an agreement, reached with the United States in November, to cut back subsidized grain exports. French farmers have put political pressure on their government to step back from the agreement.
At a news conference after a lengthy meeting Monday, Kantor and Brittan sought to pressure the 108 nations participating in the seven years of negotiations to put their final proposals on the table. They scheduled another round of talks for Brussels on Oct. 13.
Kantor held to the U.S. insistence that the Blair House grain agreement, negotiated at the presidential guest house in Washington, will not be renegotiated, and Brittan said that rather than a renegotiation, the Europeans want a “clarification,” leaving the matter essentially where it stood before they met.
Meanwhile, Peter Sutherland, the new director general of GATT, said at a luncheon in Washington that failure of the Uruguay Round would weaken the credibility of the entire international trading system and called on the participants to recognize that, to obtain the economic boost a successful conclusion would produce, it is time to offer genuine concessions.