WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

17 November 2000

Director-General attends meeting of African trade ministers in Libreville: Ministers reaffirm their support for the WTO

African Trade Ministers meeting in Libreville from 13 to 15 November reaffirmed their commitment to the multilateral trading system and considered ways to improve Africa's participation in the World Trade Organization.

In an unprecedented effort, Trade Ministers and officials from over 50 African countries, along with representatives from 29 regional organizations and international agencies, the private sector and observer countries met at the invitation of the Gabon Government to examine Africa's needs and concerns in the multilateral trading system. A series of 24 workshops presenting the main WTO agreements were conducted with the participation of African government Ministers and officials.

Speaking at the end of the Conference WTO Director-General Mr. Mike Moore said: “This meeting has been everything I expected and much more. It has been a meeting run by Africans for Africans. It is an historic first. It has enlivened the debate on trade issues for Africa. It has also been an occasion where African Ministers have rejected marginalization and reaffirmed their confidence in the WTO system.”

“We have met our shared objective to learn more about the multilateral trading system and explore ways to ensure Africa participates fully in the system and receives maximum benefits”, said Mr. Moore.

Mr. Moore was especially pleased with the workshops organized as part of the Conference. He said these were the heart of the meeting. The workshops attracted a wide audience of both Ministers and officials and were presented jointly by the WTO Secretariat and other organizations such as the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The workshops covered WTO agreements and issues of greatest concern to Africa, including regionalism and agriculture.

At the end of the Conference, African Trade Ministers presented a joint communiqué, reaffirming “Africa's commitment to working in the framework of the multilateral trading system within the WTO.” The communiqué emphasized “the need to make trade a priority in the national development policies” of African countries.

The Libreville meeting was convened and organized by the government of Gabon. In his closing speech at the Conference, Mr. Moore paid tribute to President El Hadj Omar BONGO, the Prime Minister Jean-Francois NTOUTOUME-EMANE and the people of Gabon for their hospitality and outstanding organization.

The meeting was made possible by donations from the following countries and agencies: Belgium, Chinese Taipei, Egypt, France, Gabon, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Morocco, South Africa, the African Development Bank Group, the Agence Intergovernmentale de la Francophonie (AIF), the International Development Research Centre, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union.