Role of the Private Sector in International Commodity Negotiations Needs Revision

Gao ID: ID-78-30 May 5, 1978

The United States has been a party to international negotiations for agricultural commodities since 1937. Delegations generally consist of the head of the delegation and alternates who are U.S. Government employees and advisers from either the Government or the private sector. The use of private-sector representatives as advisers is a long-established practice and was institutionalized by the Trade Act of 1974.

Advisers have performed an important service in negotiations for international commodity agreements, and the private sector should be able to consult with and provide information to negotiators. However, private-sector advisers have almost exclusively come from industry organizations. The recent accreditation of advisers representing consumer interests indicates an increased awareness of the need for consumer representation, but greater emphasis is needed for such representation in order to provide U.S. negotiators with a more balanced view of objectives. The Federal Personnel Manual (FPM) distinguishes between consultants and advisers who are special government employees subject to federal conflict-of-interest laws and those invited to appear in a representative capacity who are not subject to these laws. The role of advisers involved in the commodity negotiations does not completely meet criteria for classifying them as representatives of the private sector rather than of the government. There is also a question as to whether or not industry representatives in coffee negotiations were special government employees.


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