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WTO NEWS: 2003 NEWS ITEMS

Cairo, 13 & 14 November 2003

African trade ministers urge resumption of negotiations

Informal African Ministerial Meeting

The Ministers of Trade and Representatives from Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Egypt, as well as the Director General of the World Trade Organization and the Trade Commissioner of the Economic and Monetary Union for West Africa (EMUWA) met in Cairo on 13 and 14 November 2003 to discuss the out come of the Cancun Ministerial Conference.

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Following the events that characterized the Cancun meeting and its aftermath, and in an effort to revive the stalled negotiations, the Ministers reviewed current efforts being undertaken by the Chairman of the WTO’s General Council, Ambassador Carlos Perez del Castillo, to create the necessary consensus to restart the negotiations. In this respect, the Ministers commended the Chair General council on his efforts, and pledged their full support and engagement.

With a view to the successful and timely conclusion of the commitments undertaken at Doha, the Ministers called on the WTO membership, and particularly the major trading partners, to return to the negotiating table in the shortest possible delay. Similarly, the Ministers called for all WTO Members to build on the valuable work undertaken in the run-up to, and the positive elements achieved at, Cancun.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the multi-lateral trading system and to all aspects of the Doha Development Agenda; as the latter represents a unique opportunity for the African countries to expand their trade , while reinforcing the system of rules to support their development and growth. In the view of the Ministers, the multi-lateral trading system remains the most transparent, predictable, secure and durable conduit to expand free and fair trade among nations. The Ministers expressed their determination to ensure that the DDA negotiations regain momentum at the earliest possible time.

Ministers also reaffirmed that the issues of interest to LDC’s must be addressed in a spirit of realism to find a solution. The countries agreed that while the Derbez Text still needed substantial work it would be a good starting point for future discussions so as to preserve the progress made in Cancun. This provided ,however, that the gains made in the discussions in Cancun also be preserved and eventually integrated in the new version

Agriculture, in the view of the Ministers, remains the core market access issue for Africa in the Round. In this context, many Ministers discussed the proposals put forward by the G20 prior and during the Cancun ministerial. They agreed that the two groups had many positions in common, and that the G20 could be effective advocates for the cause of African countries in agriculture.

In a related issue Ministers agreed that the Cotton initiative takes on a particular socio-economic significance for Africa. They agreed that the issue needed to be treated realistically within a discourse that emphasizes the willingness of all members to find a solution that addresses the concerns of African countries. Ministers supported the ongoing consultations in Geneva in this context aimed at identifying the way ahead.

After a thorough review of the issues and options — both within the DDA and in the world economy in general — the Ministers recommitted their negotiating resources and capacities to a timely conclusion of the DDA; the political momentum for which must not be lost.

Ministers concluded their meeting by expressing their wish that negotiations be resumed as soon as possible in a climate of good will and constructive compromise to achieve the high goals of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.