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> Supachai Panitchpakdi’s speeches
Honourable Rachid, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Arab
Republic of Egypt
AU Trade and Industry Commissioner, Mrs. Elisabeth Tankeu
Distinguished African Trade Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you.
2. On behalf of the Director-General, the WTO Secretariat would like to
commend the Egyptian authorities for their consistently strong leadership on
Africa's trade policy priorities. The Secretariat is grateful for Egypt's
generous hospitality and excellent arrangements.
3. African Trade Ministers have worked hard and constructively to provide
the needed leadership to reach agreement on the 2004 July Package. Africa's
commitment to the multilateral trading system and your close personal
involvement were instrumental in putting the Doha Development Agenda (DDA)
back on track. The July Decision would not have been possible without the
political will of all Members to engage and compromise. Africa played a
critical and decisive leadership role. I firmly believe that the July
Package shows that the WTO can deliver and that a strengthened and dynamic
multilateral trading system, sensitive to the development needs of Africa,
will benefit all WTO Members. But beyond the progress reflected in the 2004
July Package, the challenge this year is greater.
4. The Secretariat of the WTO is pleased that Africa itself in spite of
its enormous challenges is responding with sure leadership. The
Mini-Ministerial hosted by Kenya in Mombasa advanced the Doha Agenda on key
aspects of the negotiations. Recently also, the Nigerian Trade Minister
addressed the WTO African Group of Ambassadors, delivering important
messages on behalf of President Obasanjo as Chairman of the African Union.
Together, the outcome from Mombasa and President Obasanjo's messages
underline the critical importance for a decisive push in the Doha
negotiations, to ensure an ambitious outcome with meaningful development
benefits for Africa.
5. The outcome of this Ministerial meeting will be instrumental in
determining the success of the 6th WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong
in December and in setting the stage for the conclusion of the Doha
Development Round in 2006. Africa also has a rare chance to advance its
trade and development goals by seizing the opportunity that will be
presented by the G8 Summit at Gleneagles next month.
6. African countries have a big stake in these multilateral trade
negotiations and in building a stronger multilateral trading system. The DDA
is vital to Africa's efforts to unlock the continent's economic potential.
Enhanced trade will provide the needed acceleration and growth rates, income
and welfare gains, necessary for the implementation of development
programmes, poverty reduction strategies, and lock-in domestic economic
7. A few weeks ago, African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic
Development met in Abuja, Nigeria under the conference theme “Achieving the
Millennium Development Goals in Africa”. The “Ministerial Statement”
underscored the importance for the Continent, of a fair, non-discriminatory,
predictable, multilateral trading system. It also called for the early
conclusion and success of the DDA. I believe that the statement by Finance
Ministers sets the foundations on which we, as a Continent, should build.
8. I am hopeful that this meeting will contribute towards the efforts
that are now being made by Members to meet the July “First Approximation”
deadline and inject much-needed political impetus for a positive and
meaningful outcome at Hong Kong. I seize this opportunity to reconfirm for
Ministers that the WTO Secretariat stands ready to offer every possible
assistance on technical requirements and any sound trade policy advice.
9. Current negotiations in Geneva have entered a new, critical,
interactive bargaining phase. We are now primarily focused on both technical
work and issues requiring political engagement by Ministers. I call on
Ministers to stay engaged between now and Hong Kong.
10. Agriculture is central to the performance of African economies. On
market access, while agreement was reached that reductions would be made
through a tiered formula, we still need to negotiate the number of bands and
the actual reductions to be made in each tier by both developed and
developing countries. Following an informal Mini-Ministerial meeting in
Paris, one major gateway issue is resolved, for the most part, namely, an
understanding for the conversion of specific duties into their ad valorem
equivalents (AVE). But beyond this, there are yet other issues to be
addressed such as the designation and treatment of “sensitive” and “special”
products, and the issue of preferences. On domestic support, while it is
accepted that countries with higher levels of trade-distorting support will
reduce much more than those with lower levels, the actual level of
commitments to be assumed still needs to be carefully negotiated. On the
last pillar, export competition, despite the important commitment to
eliminating export subsidies, we still need to fix an end date. It is
noteworthy to mention that LDCs are not required to undertake any reduction
commitments during this round of agriculture negotiations.
11. The WTO African Group in Geneva has made it clear that cotton,
which is being treated within the framework of Agriculture negotiations, is
a test of the development credentials of the Multilateral Trading System.
The Group considers that the treatment of cotton will be a predictor of the
ability of the Doha negotiations to produce concrete developmental outcomes
through substantial trade reforms. Progress has been made on the trade and
development aspects of the cotton issue, but much more remains to be done.
The trade-related aspect is currently being addressed as part of the work on
agriculture modalities. Progress has been made. A Cotton Sub-Committee,
prioritizing the issue, has been established and is functioning. In this
Sub-Committee, the African Group has proposed modalities for the treatment
of cotton. Members remain committed to an “ambitious, expeditious and
specific” treatment of the trade aspect of the cotton issue and are
discussing the proposals. On the development aspect, as reported by the
Director-General to the December 2004 General Council and in two subsequent
updates by the Secretariat.
12. The Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations have
intensified. The challenge in these negotiations is to reconcile divergent
objectives. While some Members seek an ambitious outcome through substantial
tariff cuts, others have stressed the need to take fully into account the
concepts of S&D and less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments.
Current efforts in the negotiations are focused on the possible coefficients
in a “Swiss-like” formula to be used in the negotiations. Sectoral
negotiations are now focusing on the possibility of using a critical mass
approach. Major efforts are being made in Geneva from all sides to move
towards convergence on these issues. The challenge is considerable.
13. I know the discussions amongst senior officials in the past few days
have underlined the importance of preferences. The July Package already
instructs Members to take into account the particular needs of
non-reciprocal preference receiving countries. The African Group and the ACP
Group have submitted proposals which seem to be complementary in nature.
While the African Group proposed the application of a correction coefficient
to allow for lesser MFN cuts and longer implementation periods for products
in which Africa enjoys non-reciprocal preferential access, the ACP Group has
been very busy working on this list. This issue is a sensitive one as there
are other developing countries who are seeking MFN tariff reductions on
those same products. There will be a need to reconcile these two conflicting
14. The services sector offers an enormous potential for development.
There has been progress. But the drawback is that the number and quality of
initial offers remain low. Only 61 offers have been received. Only six
African countries have submitted offers. Similarly, few African countries
made market-opening requests to their trading partners. Given the importance
of services as an engine for growth, however, Africa urgently needs to
engage seriously in these negotiations. None engagement will deny influence
and marginalize. How could we miss this opportunity? This is the first
development-focused trade round in the history of the Multilateral Trading
System. Services trade offers prospects for a huge development dividend.
Secretariat staff stand ready to provide any needed assistance for African
countries to prepare their offers. The target date which was set in the July
Package was last month (May 2005). At this stage, I can only urge you to
table your offers as soon as possible.
15. The focus of the Doha Trade Round is development. We must, therefore,
work hard to ensure that the DDA produces a pro-development outcome.
Discussions of the development dimensions of the DDA have been too narrowly
focused on Special and Differential Treatment. The S&D negotiations are
vital and there is a negotiating mandate. But surely, development must be
more than Special and Differential Treatment. Nonetheless, the negotiations
continue. Not much progress has been made. But we are seeing a new approach
in the discussions. Further progress will only be possible with greater
realism and flexibility. We need to keep in mind next month's (July 2005)
16. Africa played a positive role in helping to launch the trade
facilitation negotiations. Africa needs to maintain this positive
attitude, and to actively take part in the process. The African Group in
Geneva has recently tabled a proposal on identification of needs and
priorities; technical assistance and capacity building; and special and
differential treatment in the area of trade facilitation. Trade facilitation
may seem a challenging task. It is nevertheless essential. Red tape,
intransparency and low levels of governance, impede trade and increase
transaction cost. Enhancement of trade facilitation drives growth and is a
strong engine for development. Experience shows that small and medium
enterprises and traders from developing countries are particularly affected
by inefficient and cumbersome trade procedures. The domestic, economic and
commercial value of reforming and modernizing border rules and procedures of
African countries should no longer be delayed. Africa stands to benefit
greatly from advancing work on trade facilitation.
17. Many African countries are confronted by significant supply-side
challenges. This is why the July Package acknowledges the value of technical
assistance and support for capacity building in the area of trade
facilitation. The World Bank and other relevant agencies will have critical
and decisive roles to play in support of enhanced trade facilitation in
Africa. I would continue to urge you to table any proposals as soon as
possible before the compilation of a progress report for the Membership in
18. This is a snapshot of where we are in Geneva in some but not all of
the areas for negotiation. The road ahead remains replete with challenges.
The DDA is behind schedule. Every new delay weakens the credibility and the
value of the DDA. We need to approach our work over the coming months with a
sense of urgency and determination. Ministers are well-placed to provide
19. Our greatest challenge in Africa today is to eliminate poverty. This
is possible. However the indispensable starting point is to overcome the
current insufficient growth rates in Africa, and to achieve high and
sustainable growth rates that will generate sufficient resources for poverty
reduction. This is why, an ambitious outcome from the Doha negotiations must
be our fundamental objective. Protection will never be the answer.
20. The WTO Secretariat attaches great importance to building
institutional and human capacity on multilateral trade issues. I have been
privileged to have supervised the Secretariat's technical assistance
programmes over the last three years. I know that we have made progress,
although much more remains to be done. I also know that Africa receives the
most WTO technical assistance activities, in comparison with any other
region in the world. The WTO cannot, however, handle the job of capacity
building on its own. We have developed a coherent strategy with development
agencies and bilateral donors to ensure that resources are allocated to
tackling the supply-side constraints that are preventing African countries
from fully utilising market access opportunities. In this regard, the
Integrated Framework (IF), the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance
Programme (JITAP) and the Standards Trade and Development Facility (STDF)
are vital instruments for addressing these challenges. We will continue to
improve on implementation.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman,
21. 2005 provides Africa with a rare opportunity. Following our meeting
here in Cairo, three crucial meetings will convene in the next few months,
which will have an important impact on Africa's development plans. In July,
the Gleneagles G8 Summit will discuss the UK Commission for Africa Report (CFA)
and the three-year review of the Africa Action Plan. In September, the
Millennium Review Summit will take place in New York, and last but not least
the WTO will hold its 6th Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong. Today, we can
send a message of hope for Africa and the world. African countries, comprise
41 out of the 148 Members of the WTO and are active players in the
negotiations. Africa has a significant and growing stake in the negotiations
and must remain engaged so as to highlight its interests and concerns. With
your goodwill, this year should mark the “Year for Africa”. Africa can send
out a message of reform and liberalization, ambition and development.