The Naples Summit: Delors dilutes Clinton plan

NAPLES - President Bill Clinton backed away from a big trade initiative at the summit. The plan, backed by the Prime Minister, John Major, called on the Group of Seven to study new trade liberalisation measures taking in sectors which were not included in the recently completed Uruguay Round of world trade talks, writes Peter Torday.

The plan was dubbed by American officials 'Open Markets 2000' and aimed to step up pressure on Japan to open its markets further. But Mr Clinton was forced to back down after Jacques Delors, the outgoing European Commission President, said the scheme would cause 'enormous problems in Europe.' France said it was important to ratify the Gatt agreement first. The summiteers agreed to reach parliamentary ratification of the Gatt accord by 1 January next year. Mr Clinton's initiative was watered down in the communique to read 'We are resolved to continue the momentum of trade liberalisation' - especially in investment and information technology. In an acknowledging of Franco-US concern over Asian goods produced by 'cheap' labour, the seven called for study of the implications of labour laws on trade policies.

The summit endorsed the findings of the jobs study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Aimed at reducing the 24 million jobless in the G7 countries, these findings include increased investment in training and education and developing a culture of 'lifetime learning' to increase the ability to change jobs, reducing red tape burdens on business, making labour markets more flexible, and reforming benefit systems so they encourage the search for work.

The summit agreed to help the poorest countries become more active trading partners. It endorsed Mr Major's Trinidad Terms initiative, to reduce the debt of poor countries by as much as two-thirds where economic reforms are being pursued.