REGIONALISM is desirable and positive as long as it does not create extra barriers to the external world, Peter Sutherland, director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), said yesterday. ''In this part of the world above all others, it should be so evident that the degree of trade which you enjoy worldwide requires a multilateral [framework] and not one based on dialogue between one or two partners.'' He said that if the World Trade Organisation should fail to succeed GATT, the world would drift towards regionalism. Mr Sutherland said: ''Regionalism is not an answer whether in the Pacific, Europe or North America unless regional liberalisation is under the umbrella of a multilateral framework. ''Without a multilateral framework, regionalism would inevitably become divisive, inward-looking and damaging.'' He said an immediate ratification of the Uruguay Round by all the signatories was needed. ''This is an obligation particularly imposed upon the large trading partners of the world economy meaning the European Union, the United States and Japan.'' On China's insistence on being classified as a developing country and the possibility that the issue may hinder its application to rejoin GATT, Mr Sutherland said: ''That particular issue is ultimately about special preferential rights. ''I do not believe that issue itself is going to be a determining factor as to whether or not China will be re-admitted into GATT,'' Mr Sutherrland said.