Bernard D. Nossiter, The New York Times (August 22, 1980)
Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie and President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh are among the officials due here next week when rich and poor nations begin a new effort to aid economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America that have been depressed by the high price of oil.
The talks, opening Monday and expected to last a year, are set against an inauspicious background. Since oil prices began rising steeply in 1973, the industrial nations of the West and Japan have undergone continuous inflation and unemployment while the poor countries have piled up mountains of debts. As a result, envoys here are privately skeptical about the prospects for any agreement of consequence.
The poorer nations of the Southern Hemisphere are seeking what they call “massive transfers of resources” from the United States and other wealthy nations. They want guaranteed higher prices for their raw materials such as copper and jute; cancellation of some or all of the $280 billion in debts piled up by countries that export no oil; a doubling of foreign aid; freer markets for their products sold to the West, and more.
Industrial Nations’ Proposals
Most industrial countries are beset by demands at home for lower taxes and curbs on imports. They are proposing much more modest arrangements than those sought by the poor countries.
The United States, for example, plans to suggest the creation of a fund to help poor nations find oil and other energy sources within their own boundaries; the creation of food stockpiles as a reserve against famine, and a global pledge, against any increase in protective devices that keep out third-world imports.
Outlook for OPEC Prices
The gap between the demands of the poor and the offers of the rich is so wide that it has already brought an angry outburst from the leader of the United Nation’s third world group, Brajesh Chandra Mishra, the Indian delegate. After some preliminary meetings earlier this summer, Mr. Mishra accused the industrial states of “stereotyped and retrogressive positions,” of trying “to limit the sweep and authority of the global negotiations and convert them into another exercise in futility.” “Reform,” the diplomat said, “seems
to scare them no less” than it did “the monarchs of the 19th century.”
A year ago, the rich nations hoped that the global bargaining — 154 members of the United Nations will be involved —might lead to less disruptive price and supply policies by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The West thought it could gain allies from the poor nations that also import oil and have suffered even more heavily from OPEC’s burden. But that hope has been largely frustrated.
OPEC members have won over many of the poor. Venezuela and Mexico (which is still outside OPEC) offer aid, lower-priced oil or guaranteed supplies to Latin American countries; Saudi Arabia and
other Gulf producers assist Moslem nations.
So Mr. Mishra’s group has placed an OPEC demand on its list: increasing the buying power of OPEC oil, which means even higher prices. The heads of state, foreign ministers and other notable figures coming here for a special session of the General Assembly are expected to deliver long speeches about the world’s interdependent nature, the gains each nation can achieve from the prosperity of others, the perilous plight that faces the poorest of the poor. But the session’s real work will be conducted by lesser diplomats who face a formidable task: how to begin the bargaining.