The Gatt Deal: Week of fast footwork, beer and skittles

IN A WINDOWLESS room in the United States trade mission, senior aides battled exhaustion by playing skittles with beer bottles and oranges. Sir Leon Brittan and Mickey Kantor argued next door, but the men with the power to make or break a Gatt deal were asleep in a nearby hotel.

The world's most ambitious free- trade deal, involving 116 countries, has been mercilessly lobbied since its inception in 1986 and nowhere more than in the centres that control international commerce - Brussels and Washington.

This was the week the lobbyists decamped to Geneva. A longtime Gatt groupie offered help with identification: 'Gatt isn't about trade, it's about politics and you can tell the guys with the real power - they're the ones with handmade shoes.' Both Sir Leon and Mr Kantor sport expensive footwear well-suited to nimble footwork.

The bulk of the work on the Uruguay Round package was virtually done when talks broke down over agriculture in 1990. Since then argument has ebbed and flowed as to how to resolve the outstanding problems between the two giant trade blocs and then lace the results into a globally-acceptable deal.

The first sign of breakthrough was last Wednesday, when the US and European Union announced they had tidied up the agricultural dossier. This was the concession that saw off French objections and Sir Leon flew to meet Mr Kantor in Geneva to hammer out the rest.

But the deal Sir Leon brought back to the European summit in Brussels at the weekend was only partial - four key obstacles remained: on aircraft, financial services, maritime services and audiovisual issues. In Geneva, delegates grew increasingly impatient 'having to sit at the big table waiting to pick up a few crumbs', as a senior diplomat put it, and began putting conditions on their support for deals already done.

By Sunday night, the European Union had resolved all domestic differences and was pushing for a Gatt conclusion but had, crucially, endorsed a French demand that any audiovisual deal must protect Europe's cultural identity. In Geneva, as negotiations between the main parties moved into their 17th hour, Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association, in Geneva all week from Hollywood, met Mr Kantor at least twice and then phoned President Bill Clinton. Mr Clinton phoned John Major, Edouard Balladur, the French Prime Minister, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, but they had been tipped off by Sir Leon to expect the call and stand firm. 'It was a last attempt at steamrolling and it failed,' said a European diplomat.

The weather on Monday was magnificent. It was, they all agreed, a wonderful day for a crisis and flew back to the Brussels rain, where it broke. In the minutes before facing EU foreign ministers, Mr Kantor phoned Washington from Geneva and came back with the message that the US could not accept the EU offer on audiovisual.

Discussions went on in the United States trade mission's offices through the night, breaking off at 9.15am so everyone could wash. At 10am they met again; the final deal was clinched 15 minutes later and they walked out together to face the press.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee