by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 10 Apr 2000 -- A "package" of proposals from the four Quad members (Canada, EC, Japan and the United States) relating to the special measures to favour the least developed countries, and the implementation issues, came in for some sharp criticisms at the informal meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization Monday, according to trade diplomats.

The Quad package can neither be a basis for negotiating a package nor could it form a confidence-building measure, members appear to have said in their interventions.

The informal meeting which began Monday morning was expected to continue in the afternoon.

The Quad members had been working on this package, and agreed on it at a meeting on 31 March, and gave it to the WTO Director-General Mike Moore last week, as a measure to "build confidence" among the least developed and the developing countries that their concerns were being addressed.

While Moore reportedly wanted to circulate the Quad package as their "document", the Quad rejected such a move (on the ground that it might result in counter-proposals from others). The Quad on the other hand wanted their paper to be used by Moore in his consultation process.

At the informal Council meet Monday, the Quad members viewed their proposals as an important advance, but few others seemed to think so.

Some saw the package as even less than the unsatisfactory package that seemed to emerge at Seattle in the consultation process, and felt that the Quad as well as the informal text that was being evolved at Seattle would need considerable improvements.

Some others strongly rejected the Quad package even being considered as a basis for an accord or as a confidence-building measure - with Pakistan calling it a "confidence-breaking" development.

In consultations that Moore and his deputies appear to have held among a smaller group of members on Friday last week, several developing countries would appear to have said that the Quad package could at best be one contribution towards the confidence building process.

It was suggested that just as General Council chair and the WTO DG had invited 'contributions' from members and groups of them on the 'transparency issue' and on that basis had scheduled a full day of informal discussions, on the issues of implementation and action programme for LDCs too, 'contributions' should be invited from all the members, and discussions held on that basis at an informal General Council meeting.

The Quad proposals for the LDCs, is far less than what is made out, and fails to ensure that "all" imports coming from these countries would be eligible for duty-free and quota-free access, and that this concession would be "bound" in the WTO/GATT schedules, so as to encourage investments and production in these countries.

The Quad package merely talks of "essentially all" products, and subjects these concessions to other conditions -- "consistent with domestic requirements and international agreements...."

This would enable the Quad countries to exclude most of the imports which they would consider "sensitive" -- in the textiles and clothing sectors, footwear, fisheries and agriculture products -- from such duty-free, quota-free treatment, and any event not bind themselves to this in terms of the WTO/GATT schedules.

According to reports from Washington, an attempt by the IMF and the World Bank secretariats to make a similar proposal in respect of least developed countries in their documentation for next week's IMF/Bank meetings had to be "toned down" at the insistence of the US Treasury. (SUNS4645)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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