Rich and poor nations at UN to put North-South dialogue back on track

The North-South dialogue that collapsed in early September at the UN Special Session on Global Economic Issues is now likely to resume, thus avoiding an acrimonious debate between the have and have-not countries at the General Assembly.

This does not mean, however, that the industrial countries and the developing nations are closer to an agreement on how to achieve a new world economic order.

The developed countries of the North, faced with their own economic difficulties, are not prepared at this time to turn the existing international economic system upside down. For the moment, they want to continue to meet some of the needs of the poorer nations through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The less-dewveloped countries (LDCs) want to change the existing economic order by getting higher prices for their raw materials, easier terms for loans, doubling foreign aid, and revising the monetary system.

The more important issues dividing the industrial nations and the LDCs were supposed to be discussed at the UN Conference on Glogal Negotiations in January. However, a consensus on the question of the competence and mandate of the conference could not be reached during special sessions in late August and early September.

The LDCs wanted the conference to be responsible for all phases of the negotiations. The industrial nations wanted the actual negotiations to take place in specialized agencies such as the International Monetry Fund, (IMF) the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the World Bank, where they are in a dominating position. The "North" obviously does not want to allow a UN-like forum where it is outvoted, to steamroll it into economic concessions.

After weeks of bilateral discussions between ambassadors of key countries a break-through was achieved on procedural matters. This now will allow the negotiations to begin next January in New York.

The compromise that all delegations, including the US, now are reported to be willing to accept, is based on a Yugoslav proposal to which an interpretative statement by the president of the General Assembly would be added. Essentially it would reaffirm the integrity of the specialized agencies and thus placate US fears that the UN might take over the IMF and dictate its economic policy to the US government.

Under the auspices of the Stanley Foundation, representatives of 34 "significant" countries (selected because of their regional and political importance or because of their wealth) will meet Nov. 14 to 16 at Arden House in Harriman, N.Y., where they are expected to hammer out a final agreement. The convening of the global negotiations conference would then be announced at the General Assembly on Nov. 17 or 18. The conference would deal with five main problems: trade, monetary matters, energy, raw materials, and development strategy.

"These negotiations represent an effort of major complexity not unlike those dealing with Law of the Sea, and may well take several years before leading to an agreement" says one expert.

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