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> Supachai Panitchpakdi’s speeches
> Speech by Director-General Supachai
The Speaker of the Senate;
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies;
The Right Honourable Prime Minister;
The President of the Supreme Court;
Honourable African Union Trade Ministers;
Honourable Ministers and Ministers of State from Rwanda;
Director-General of the World Trade Organization;
Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa;
African Union Commissioner for Trade;
Senators and Members of Parliament;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
First of all, let me welcome you to Rwanda, and say that I am pleased to
join you at these important deliberations.
While brief, I hope that your time here in Kigali, will be very productive.
This is, indeed a crucial conference, as it takes place after trade
negotiations have faced some difficulties.
But, clearly, there have been discernible indications of a mood for change
recently, and we must not lose sight of signs of recent positive
developments and moves from our trade partners.
There have been meetings, and steps have been taken to remove us from this
And I would like to pay tribute to WTO for ensuring that their negotiating
machinery is up and running.
This window of opportunity is a real one, and we cannot allow it to slip
Clearly, we should seize the occasion, use real imagination and be as
constructive as possible.
As the Director-General of WTO has said, flexibility and accommodation are
We all have our priorities and interests.
This would be a complicating factor in any negotiation.
That is why the search for compromises is of paramount importance.
And let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is
a sign of weakness or a sell-out.
Rather, it should be seen as a willingness to advance our common interests,
resulting in a win-win situation.
I subscribe to the view that Africa needs the multilateral trading system as
much as the multilateral system needs Africa to play its deserved role in
moving forward the agenda of the WTO.
International trade is an important factor of external finance for
sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
Without international trade, we in the developing world, will not be able to
create sufficient wealth to grow out of poverty and achieve the Millennium
You are aware that in terms of population, Africa represents about 12 per
cent of the world population.
But as a percentage of global economy, Africa represents less than 2 per
cent in terms of international trade, gross domestic product (GDP), and
foreign direct investment (FDI).
The social conditions of our people remain the same.
In parts of the African continent, poverty levels have actually increased
and living standards have deteriorated.
This clearly shows that only a strong and vibrant multilateral trading
system, in which Africa has a stake, can unlock Africa's economic potential,
and reverse its marginalisation from the global economy.
When I talk about the economies of our countries, economic figures and
balance sheets alone do not give the real picture.
For I am talking about issues that have a human face; issues that, if not
addressed, have a devastating impact on the welfare of our people.
These are issues of poverty, illiteracy, disease, of unemployment and very
low incomes; issues of very poor living standards.
Alleviating these ills is what international trade is all about, and I urge
you to keep in mind this important dimension in your deliberations.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
Our concerns in the multilateral trading system are well known and have been
articulated before. They include unfavourable trade conditions, unfair trade
rules, barriers to market access, tariff peaks and tariff escalation on
Africa's exports, and distortions to agricultural trade caused by subsidies
in developed countries.
If this state of affairs continues, we cannot benefit from the global
We recognise that there can be general convergence on the need to agree on
frameworks in some of these areas, and that progress will be made in others
after further clarification and negotiation.
Of course, negotiations can be difficult and there will be some amongst our
trade partners who will seek to use divide and rule in the process.
While we should endeavour to narrow the differences between developed
countries and ourselves, African countries need to present a unified
This is crucial because it is the only way we can forge trade and economic
partnerships we want with the developed world.
All negotiations and trade agreements we enter into should aim to promote
the economic growth of all African countries, big and small, without
discrimination and disadvantage.
In future, our negotiations or agreements, be they for market access for our
agricultural and non-agricultural products, services, or trade-related
aspects of intellectual property, they should focus on our overall
development and poverty eradication strategies.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
In Africa today, we recognise that trade and investment, and not aid, are
pillars of development.
We are all turning to trade as the engine for our growth and development
after many decades of donor-aided development that failed to make an impact
on our economies, mainly because it was not aimed at building a basis for
market-driven economic growth anyway.
It has instead created an aid dependency cycle from which many have failed
to extricate themselves.
Let me hasten to point out here that, as we seek to dismantle barriers to
our trade with the developed countries, we should not lose sight of the fact
that these same barriers, which take the same form of crude protection,
exist even in our backyards and in our neighbourhood.
We can never begin to integrate with the world economy successfully, if we
do not develop effective intra-Africa trade first.
We cannot claim better access to the markets of developed countries if we do
not allow free movement of goods and services across our African borders and
move towards achieving a borderless Africa.
I would like to acknowledge, at this juncture, the significant efforts made
by African Regional Economic Communities such as COMESA, ECOWAS, SADC, AMU
and ECCAS in laying the groundwork.
However, they need refining and need to address the issues of tariffs and
non-tariff barriers, which have a detrimental effect on fellow African
Regional Economic Communities are a good means to a good end, and the end is
the African common market.
Building on these existing common markets, we would empower African
countries to position themselves well in matters of trade with their
counterparts in Europe, Americas and Asia.
This latter group are at their final stages of integration, a process that
we on the African continent cannot afford to delay.
Other pertinent issues that have a bearing on African trade that you may
wish to consider include:
First, the need to enhance Africa's ability to export quality and
quantity, including the use of ICTs, and to enhance diversification;
Second, capacity building so that Africa can effectively participate in
the international trading system;
Third, gender issues and empowerment of women through trade; and
Fourth, involvement of other stakeholders in trade for development:
Government, international organizations, the private sector and civil
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
I recognise the efforts made by Trade Ministers to conclude negotiations for
ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), but there is a need to create
a strong coordination mechanism to monitor the whole negotiation process so
as to benefit all member countries.
The ongoing negotiation process for post-Cancun strategy and the way forward
for implementation of WTO Doha Development Agenda demands serious attention.
I am aware that serious negotiations and consultations have taken place in
many ministerial and expert meetings.
But we need to come up with a position that is inclusive so that a
conclusion is reached from such negotiations in the best interest of all
Most importantly, I would like to urge you to take action.
We have talked too much; it is now time for action.
Things must start to happen if we want to achieve what we want.
We need to consolidate progress made in various fora, meetings and
consultations, on this round of negotiations after the failure of Cancun.
We need to chart out an appropriate strategy that is flexible,
accommodative, and shows the way forward for the Continent in matters of
AGOA and “Everything but Arms” are of special interest and benefit to the
They have been a right step in the right direction.
This meeting should come out urging the US to renew AGOA beyond 2008.
Let me conclude my remarks by reiterating that Africa needs to be part of
the global economy, and trade is the instrument to achieve this.
And that Africa can only hope to integrate with the world economy and attain
economic transformation if it creates a conducive policy environment,
attractive to both local and foreign investors.
This comes with a number of other necessary reforms which encourage good
political and economic governance.
These include putting in place the rule of law; building modern economic
institutions; strengthening institutions that promote transparency and
accountability; eradicating corruption, investing in education; improving
public health, and, most importantly, investing in infrastructure.
I am pleased to note that with NEPAD, many African countries are taking
these reforms very seriously and we are determined to beat dependency and
What we are looking for is an even playing field so that we are able to
capitalise on our potential, our resources and our capacities.
This is how we will fashion our destiny, and meet the needs of the African
Finally, I wish to thank all the people who have contributed to the
organization of this conference, especially the EU for their financial
support, and thank you once again for having chosen Rwanda as its venue.
I hope that we will be able to meet, or even exceed your expectations in
providing a conducive environment for the success of your deliberations.
It is my pleasant duty now to declare this conference open.