WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

Addis Ababa, 17 June 2002

First AfDB, ECA, OAU and WTO Trade Policy Course for African countries — Addis Ababa, 17 to 28 June 2002

Opening Statement by Ablassé Ouedraogo Deputy-Director General World Trade Organization ( WTO )

H.E. Amara ESSY, Secretary-General of the OAU
Dr K.Y Amoako, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa
Mr. K. Bedoumbra, Representative of the President of the African Development Bank

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to convey to all of you the greetings of Mr. Mike MOORE, Director General of the World Trade Organization, who could not travel to Addis and has asked me to represent him. It is a real pleasure for me to welcome you all to the opening of the First WTO-ECA-OAU-ADB Trade Policy Course for African countries and to report to you on progress of work at the WTO. As you may know Africa is a priority at the WTO, in capacity-building and in delivery of technical assistance. The Doha Declaration therefore places the interests of African and other developing countries at the heart of the WTO work programme. In addition, it contains enhanced measures for trade-related technical assistance and capacity building which would enable developing countries, in particular the least-developed, to meaningfully integrate into the multilateral trading system and the global economy.

The year 2001 was an outstanding one for the World Trade Organization, perhaps the most significant in our brief history. We concluded a successful Ministerial Conference in Doha. We reached agreement on the launch of a new round of trade negotiations. We placed development issues and the interests of our poorer members at the heart of our work. And we welcomed more than a quarter of the world's population into our membership from China, Chinese Taipei, Lithuania and Moldova. More than 97% of world trade is now governed by WTO rules.

Success in Doha brought to an end the uncertainty created by the failure at Seattle. We are back in business. And our business is trade liberalisation.

The momentum since Doha has been equally impressive. Members have established a Trade Negotiations Committee to oversee the negotiations. They have appointed the Director-General ex-officio to chair this body. The structure of the negotiations has been determined and chairpersons of all the individual negotiating bodies decided upon. As well, Members have chosen Cancun in Mexico as the venue for the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference, which will take place from 10 to 14 September 2003 and Minister Derbez and his team have already begun preparations.

Through will and determination, Members have proceeded rapidly to the substantive negotiations. For our part, the Secretariat is well-prepared to assist Members in their work. We have consolidated our internal structures and refocused our priorities clearly to reflect the Doha Agenda.

We do believe that we can conclude the round within the three-year timeframe agreed by Ministers and namely by 1 January 2005. But we must move the negotiations up a gear. And we must carry into our work the lessons and insights from Doha. The new roadmap to Cancun in Mexico and on to the successful conclusion of the round must include a number of key elements.

One key to success will be technical assistance and capacity building — helping poorer members to integrate into the trading system and participate fully in the negotiations. In Doha, developing countries put the “conditionality” of capacity building on further progress in trade liberalization. This conditionality is understood by major donors and supporters.

Members have already acted decisively by approving an increased Secretariat budget for 2002 and pledging 30 million Swiss Francs to a new Global Trust Fund for technical assistance. This is a solid step forward for the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda.

Our task is to make sure the resources are used efficiently and properly. We also have to ensure they are tightly targeted on the technical assistance needs of members — based around the Doha Development Agenda. Good progress has been made already. The Secretariat has a comprehensive programme of activities for 2002 and we are proceeding with implementation. We have also put in place new audit and evaluation systems to ensure members are informed and that there is greater transparency and accountability in our technical assistance work. We are hiring new staff as well to bolster our technical assistance capabilities. They will be in place in the next few weeks.

We are looking to be innovative. Our current programme of activities includes at least 15 intensive 3-week training courses and we have also doubled the capacity of our WTO Training Institute. To enhance these efforts, we are now moving quickly to establish in host countries 3-month diploma courses for trade officials. These will be based on the curricula of the WTO Training Institute and we will also assist with standards-setting, quality control and identifying suitably qualified teachers. The courses will help developing countries build up a core of advisors for Ministers by the time of the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference. Preparations are well underway to launch soon these courses at a university in Kenya and in another university in Morocco. We hope too that the idea might eventually be carried into other teaching institutions in Africa and other regions. It is work in progress and ideally we should also prepare Masters courses for young officials.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. AMOAKO and his able team in Addis and in Dakar at IDEP for their pertinent initiative to prepare and develop the ECA/IDEP Trade-Related Capacity-Building, Research Programme to Africa. This new programme will strengthen our joint efforts in capacity-building in Africa. I am pleased to assure you of the support and collaboration of the WTO Secretariat in the implementation of this programme.

 As part of our technical assistance mandate, we are also deepening our partnerships with other agencies. This is well underway and we have received encouragement and enthusiasm from all agency heads approached. Working with other agencies, we are developing a new database and country files so that our collective efforts are coordinated and so we can identify gaps in our delivery of trade-related technical assistance. This will help us to be more transparent and accountable to Ministers. We also need this early warning system to find and fix gaps. Discovering problems next year will be too late.

We know that the requirements of developing countries in the area of WTO or in trade-related technical assistance extends well beyond what the WTO can and should provide. We need to be absolutely clear about the limits of what the WTO can do and cannot do with regard to the Doha Development Agenda. Other Organizations can help with physical infrastructure; that's their core business. We can and do cooperate with other agencies. But we must stick to our core business which is trade liberalisation, the Doha Development Agenda and bringing down barriers to trade so that people everywhere can benefit.

Another important element in the roadmap is getting out the right message to mobilise public support. The potential benefits of the round are enormous and the economic and development arguments compelling. But we have to communicate these benefits in ways that rally not just trade negotiators but politicians, policy-makers, the business community and all other players in civil society:

  • In economic terms, cutting barriers to trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services by a third would boost the world economy by US$ 613 billion. That's like adding an economy the size of Canada to the world economy.

  • Abolishing all trade barriers could boost global income by $US 2.8 trillion and lift 320 million people out of poverty by 2015.

  • In development terms, the elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers could result in gains for developing countries in the order of US$182 billion in the services sector, US$ 162 billion in manufactures and US$ 32 billion in agriculture.

  • OECD agricultural subsidies in dollar terms are two-thirds of Africa's total GDP. Abolishing these subsidies would return three times all the ODA put together to developing countries. The UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan wants US$ 10 billion to fight Aids; that is just 12 days subsidies.

  • Health and education are fundamental to any development programme. The cost of achieving the core UN Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education could be US$10 billion per year. Yet developing countries would gain more than 15 times this amount annually from further trade liberalisation.

  • All seven of the UN Millennium Development goals — in health, education, poverty, etc — would require US$ 54 billion annually, — just one third the estimate of developing country gains from trade liberalisation.

Of course, developing countries don't need to wait until the conclusion of the Doha Development Round. South/south trade in the 1990s grew faster than world trade and now accounts for more than one third of developing country exports, or about US$ 650 billion. The World Bank reports that 70 percent of the burden on developing countries' manufactured exports result from trade barriers of other developing countries. The quicker those walls come down, the quicker will be the returns to developing countries.

We share the view of African leaders that the responsibility of solving Africa's development problems rests with Africans themselves, based on their own identified priorities. This is why the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is a welcome initiative and is an important commitment by Africa to poverty alleviation and to place African countries on a path of sustainable growth and development. NEPAD establishes an important framework for policy ownership. Africa needs to participate effectively in the multilateral trading system and to reap the benefits available.

I am pleased to note that there are representatives from most African countries on this course as well as representatives and resource persons from the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa, the OAU and the WTO. This course is the first of a number of courses to be organised by the ADB, ECA, OAU and the WTO in the years to come. These courses are intended to broaden the outreach of WTO Agreements, rights and obligations to African countries.

The course aims at introducing you and at deepening your understanding about the multilateral trading system thereby assisting the efforts of African countries to integrate into the global economy. In addition to being participants in this course, you are also trade policy officials in your various countries. It is vitally important that officials like you, who give instructions to your Geneva-based delegates and make recommendations to Ministers, have a good understanding and knowledge of the multilateral trading system, so that your countries can participate fully, actively and effectively, in the WTO and reap the many benefits it has to offer.

In the coming two weeks, you will not only be introduced to the workings of the WTO, but will also be briefed on the negotiations currently underway in Geneva, with particular emphasis on what the negotiations mean for African countries. The list of resource persons, including a strong team of interpreters from the African Development Bank, ECA, OAU and the WTO is very impressive and I am sure you will benefit greatly from their various backgrounds and experiences.

In concluding, I would like personally to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Executive Heads of the three Institutions, H.E. Amara Essy, Dr. K.Y. AMOAKO of UNECA, President Omar Kabbaj of the African Development Bank Group, for their continued support to the World Trade Organization as well as for their full and entire commitment to the development of Africa. This collaboration is going to be strengthened in order to facilitate joint actions by the four organizations for the integration of African countries into the multilateral trading system.

Dear participants,

I do hope you find this course useful and enjoyable.

I thank you.