15 November 2000
Libreville 2000 Meeting of African trade ministers
13-15 November 2000
We have come to the end of this very important and historic meeting of African Trade Ministers. It has been the first of its type; a meeting in Africa organized by Africans for Africa, discussing multilateral trade issues. The meeting has been a success. A success in enlivening the debate on trade issues for Africa. A success in providing a forum for mutual education, enlightenment and increase in knowledge. And a success by the commitment that you, as African Ministers and experts, have brought to the meeting by your presence in person, by your strong and pertinent contributions on the urgent issues we must address, and by the support you have expressed for the future of the multilateral trading system. Never has there been assembled in Africa such a gathering of Ministers, experts, advisers and officials dedicated to the proposition that Africa's great concerns must be on the international trade agenda. This has been Gabon's meeting. This has been Africa's meeting. I am proud my organization has been able to contribute.
I wish to pay tribute to His Excellency President El Hadj Omar Bongo, Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ntoutoume-Emane, Minister Mabika, Ambassador Bike and the Government and people of Gabon for organising this meeting and providing the excellent facilities from which we have benefitted. I should also like to thank the donor countries and organizations that so generously contributed to the financing of this meeting and to bringing Ministers and officials here. I also want to express my appreciation for the cooperation received from a very large number of international agencies that have taken part in this meeting both agencies with world-wide scope and African regional and sub-regional institutions. 29 agencies were invited, 29 attended. They have added real value to our discussions. It is a mark of our excellent working relations among institutions. It augurs well for our continuing efforts to achieve greater coherence among institutions.
Above all, I wish to congratulate all of you Ministers, officials, and private sector experts for your enthusiastic participation in our workshops. These have been the beating heart of this meeting and, judging by the reports that have come from the Rapporteurs, they have gone very well and have been an education for all of us. The statements made in the opening sessions and in subsequent discussions among Ministers concerning the broader international trade agenda has given me great confidence that Africa is supporting the WTO and multilateral solutions wholeheartedly.
More must be done. This meeting is a starting-point. We need to build on this a lasting relationship with all our African members and with African countries seeking accession to the WTO. We need to assist you to ensure proper representation in Geneva, continuous contact with our Committees and Councils, and strong working relations with our Secretariat. I think we have made a good start and I shall see that the contacts forged here continue. We now have a large number of key advisers with whom we must keep in contact and build their capacity to pursue national objectives. As early as next week, I will be meeting with my staff and friends to see what follow-up activities must be undertaken immediately.
Africa needs to build its capacity to produce, export, grow and develop. The international community can help. Africa also needs open and reliable markets and fair and stable rules for the conduct of its trade. Some of these objectives may be achievable though the present discussions and negotiations on agriculture, services and implementation of WTO Agreements. But I believe that Africa and the rest of the world needs a new Round of trade negotiations to ensure maximum benefit from the multilateral trading system. I also believe that we should be able to achieve this goal next year if sufficient flexibility is shown by the Members and continued efforts are made to enable the small players to participate effectively in the negotiations.
I should not like to end without thanking the team of dedicated WTO staff who worked so enthusiastically and effectively over the course of this meeting. They assisted the Gabon authorities with logistics. They took part in the workshops. They interacted with Ministers and officials inside and outside the meeting halls. I should like to add that this meeting would not have come to fruition without the determination of my good friend and colleague, Ablasse Ouedraogo. I thank him for his tireless efforts. We in the international institutions are public servants. We are here to facilitate and advise.
Prime Minister, I can report that Ministers and officials have worked hard at this Conference. The issues they addressed are not easy ones. There are great interests at stake. But at all times. Ministers pursued tirelessly the interests of Africa.
Once again, thank you Prime Minister. I wish the Government and the people of Gabon well in facing the challenges of development and look forward to the next occasion for such strong and positive interaction between Africa and the WTO.