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Business News of Friday, 28 November 2003

Source: GNA

Trade Experts attend meeting in Accra

Accra, Nov 28, GNA - Mr Alan Kyeremanteng, Minister of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiatives (PSI), on Friday called for the re-crafting of the rules governing multilateral trade that favoured developed countries to the detriment of Africa.

He said such a measure was the only viable means of ensuring the integration of African countries into the global economy.

Mr Kyeremanteng made the call when opening a two-day Trade Experts Group meeting of African Trade Negotiators in Accra.

The Post-Cancun Experts Meeting, being attended by 100 participants, would undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the outcome of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Cancun, Mexico.

The Cancun meeting ended in a stalemate, as the participants were unable to reach agreement on any of the key issues on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

The issues were subsidies in the agricultural sector, high tariffs and tariffs escalation in the area of non-agricultural market access.

Mr Kyeremanteng said despite the increased contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of African Countries the performance of trade on the continent had not been encouraging.

Mr Kyeremanteng said Africans continued to face challenges in trade like low development of human capital, inadequate foreign direct investment, lack of physical infrastructure and technology and the crippling debt overhang.

He said Africa had been kept within the bounds of producing and exporting basic raw agriculture, a situation that had to change radically to enable the Continent to benefit substantially from international trade.

The Minister said failure of the Cancun meeting did not signify the end of the current negotiations and the desire of all countries to rescue the negotiations should provide a new sense of co-operation among members of WTO to create a required foundation for the revitalization of the multilateral trading system.

"Recognising that the WTO system is not perfect, we must work towards a reform that would empower the institution to shape a new trading system to promote the dynamic changes in the world and enhance its contribution to the growth of all countries, especially Africa", he said.

Dr Kingsley Yeboah Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the WTO-based multilateral system provided two broad types of opportunities for improving trade and investment policies in developing countries.

These policies included an avenue for improving access to export markets and a commitment mechanism to secure and lock in politically sensitive or difficult trade policy reforms, which unfortunately, African countries had insufficient bargaining power to influence under the current mechanisms and negotiating processes. Dr Amoako said; "taking this vulnerability into account, our collective participation in the multilateral system can help us derive enormous trade, economic, and welfare benefits from it. This is one rationale for Africa to maintain its commitment to the Doha Development Round".

He said Africa must also continue to pursue the goal of regional integration because of its multiple, small and fragmented economies, adding: "Africa needs to create sub-regional markets that promote sustainable development and gradually build its capacity and competitiveness required to participate in multilateral trading system."

Dr Amoako said for Africa to attain inter-regional trade levels comparable to those realised by other regions of the world, the pace of internal trade growth in the area of maintenance of macro-economic stability, stable and predictable exchange rate and improved export competitiveness, among other things, must be doubled.

He announced that the next conference of African Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning would be held in May next year under the theme: "Maximising the Contribution of Trade to Africa's Development."

Ms Sophie Asimenye Kalinde, Permanent Observer of the African Union, urged participants to come out with well-defined strategies to improve Africa's trade to enable Africa to play its role in the WTO more effectively.