U.S. WINS AT GATT

THE AGENDA FOR THE EIGHTH ROUND of trade talks among the 92 member nations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is, perhaps, too good to be true for the United States. Nearly every major issue sought by the Reagan administration last week during preliminary negotiations, at Punta Del Este, Uruguay, is on the agenda for discussion at Geneva.

The talks are set to begin Oct. 31, with the first meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, and will last no more than four years.How important are these forthcoming GATT negotiations? Enrique V. Iglesias, chairman of the world trade conference and foreign minister of Uruguay, pointed out their significance at the press conference Saturday at the end of the week-long meetings in Uruguay. They could well determine trade rules through the year 2000, he said.

What the U.S. negotiators generally sought was a more liberal approach to trade along a broad spectrum, including dismantling the barriers against the trade in services among nations. Ever since the first meeting back in 1947, GATT negotiations have strictly concerned themselves with the trade of manufactured and naturally produced goods. But with 25 percent of world trade involving financial and other services, and the lion's share of that going to U.S. corporations, U.S. negotiators increasingly have requested that the GATT develop regulations against barriers in the trade of services. However, the developing nations, up until last week, stood shoulder to shoulder and staunchly fought to protect their developing services industries against U.S. service interests.

But discussion of services will be part of this eighth round of GATT talks.

In addition, U.S. negotiators, led by U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter, talked the other GATT members attending the Uruguay foray into listing on the GATT agenda discussions involving: reduction of subsidies on agriculture (something the French, in particular, didn't want discussed); the establishment of rules on foreign investment; and protection of so-called intellectual property, including patents, copyrights and trademarks.

How did they do it? We not only knew exactly what we wanted, which means we were well organized, but we did the necessary politicking before the meeting going back to June, said a trade official who preferred to remain nameless. Much of the politicking was aimed at the developing nations, who need to pay off their debts by exporting goods to the United States and, therefore, were amenable to making concessions to the United States in the services area. Colombia's ambassador to GATT, Felipe Jaramillo, proved to be particularly helpful to the United States in rallying the developing nation's to support U.S. positions.

Brazil and India proved to be the least cooperative in negotiating with U.S. officials, which is nothing new. In particular, they fought the U.S. effort to link the liberalization of trade barriers on products to reciprocal treatment for barriers against services. Finally, after a couple of all-night sessions, a compromise was reached. A special committee made up of GATT members acting as individual countries will discuss the trading of services among nations. It will be this special committee's responsibility to determine on what basis services will ultimately be introduced into the GATT negotiations. The committee could conclude that services aren't to be included in the eighth round talks, but that appears to be unlikely.

The declaration issued Saturday by the GATT ministers does include a potential problem for the United States.

Included in the declaration was a standstill' provision. Under this provision, each country agreed that it wouldn't take any trade restrictive or distorting measures inconsistent with the provisions of the general agreement or the instruments negotiated within the framework of GATT.... The Omnibus Trade Act, passed by the House and now before the Senate, would put the United States in conflict with this standstill provision if if became law.

Richard Z. Lawrence, senior fellow with Brookings Institution, contends the trade billwouldn't only violate the standstill provision but the basis on which GATT was established in the first place. The trade bill calls for the United States to take unilateral action against nations that it suspects are unfairly dumping imports on our shores or it suspects are unfairly erecting

barriers against our exports, he says. If multilateral trade agreements are to be meaningful, such unilateral action by nations, including our own, is and should be unacceptable to the world community.

In other words, the very difficult and highly successful efforts undertaken by Mr. Yeutter and his cohorts in Uruguay could be wiped away with the passage of the trade bill.

The developing nations - whatever their reasons - are more inclined to support the positions of the United States on trade today than at any time in the last 20 years or more. In these perilous times perhaps they realize that no other nation will play fairer with them than this one. We shouldn't disappoint them. Leadership is a burden, but, one great nations should willingly take on. By passing the trade bill we would no longer be a leader, we would simply be one of the pack.

For the full story: Log In, Register for Free or Subscribe