WTO: Signs That A Deal Is In The Offing

18 Dec 2015 | by
WTO: Signs That A Deal Is In The Offing

There are signs that a deal about fair international trade will be struck in Nairobi today, although there are few indicators that Africa's main interests such as easier access to European markets and the removal of subsidies to farmers in richer nations will form part of the agreement.

Some negotiators at the World Trade Organisation's tenth ministerial meeting in Nairobi, especially those from Africa, feel they are debating the issues from a weak point of view.

"We are in the last half of the match between poor and rich nations and the final whistle is about to be blown. Not even any extra time will make a big difference for the poor countries," one of the delegates from West Africa identified only as Abedikor said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said at the meeting that unfair trade practices from rich countries are hampering Africa's growth.

"African economies producing competitively should not be halted with defensive trade remedies. The continued refusal by rich countries to remove subsidies negates the objective to use trade as an instrument for growth and development," Kenyatta told the China round table meeting where China and WTO members meet to discuss trade policies.

While reflecting on the landmark climate change deal struck in Paris, France, a few days ago, the WTO director general, Roberto Azevedo, said in his opening address, that the WTO members currently gathered in Nairobi should as well be inspired by that breakthrough.

Uganda's prime minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, said it was important for WTO members to work towards concluding the Doha Development Round of negotiations.

The ministerial meeting in Nairobi is the latest round of negotiations among the WTO membership, which aims at achieving major reforms of international trading through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules.

The outstanding issues of these negotiations revolve around three issues: market access, domestic support and export subsidies and competition. Market access is arguably the biggest obstacle in the trade negotiations. Farmers such as those in Uganda continue to face stiffer conditions before their products can be allowed into certain foreign markets.

Andrew Rugasira, the owner of Good African coffee, said it took him more than 10 trips to the United Kingdom before his coffee could be sold in some of the high-end supermarkets there.

Some exporters of pepper cannot sell their products in Europe after Uganda instituted a self-imposed ban because there were some unscrupulous traders whose produce had pests.

Then there are issues of rich nations subsidising their farmers, outcompeting those in poorer countries in Africa, who, not only have to deal with little, if any, government support and also incur high costs of production such as expensive electricity and lack of cheaper credit.

Today, Ugandan supermarkets are being flooded by well-branded and packaged products such as honey, rice, sugar, which are imported from rich nations to outcompete those from poor nations.

Whereas the WTO's core mandate is to deal with rules of trade between nations by helping producers of goods and services, exporters and importers to trade fairly in global markets, rich nations are being accused of offering export subsidies and domestic support to their farmers, a move that has resulted in large crop surpluses and downward pressures on food prices across the globe

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