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> Speeches of former WTO Directors-General
This meeting the last of our three regional
reviews has generated more interest, more dialogue, and more ideas
than anyone had hoped for. It only reinforces my conviction that Africa
is determined to succeed in world trade.
There have been too many important observations and insights to try to
condense them into my brief remarks. We have heard that the problem is
not a lack of competitive firms but the lack of competitive economic
systems and that if we can address this problem, Africa can compete
with the world. We were reminded that helping Africa trade more is good
for the world, not just for Africans and that Aid for Trade should be
seen as an investment, not charity. And we heard that the challenge is
not just to build infrastructure, but to change mind sets and that the
most important change begins at the top with a political commitment to
making trade a central priority.
Which brings me to some of the key messages that I will be taking away
from this conference:
First, leadership. It is impossible to overstate the importance of a
focused and sustained national commitment to trade-led growth. The
message weve heard again and again over the last day and a half is that
trade must be a national priority, that leadership must come from the
top, that there needs to be a strategy for getting there, and that this
strategy needs to be shared across government and business, and
mainstreamed in all facets of national policy. Countries which are
unified and focused can harness globalization countries which are
uncertain or ambivalent cannot.
Second, priorities. The challenge for countries and it is a big one
politically is to agree on the two or three objectives that will
impact most on their trade growth and then pursue them consistently
over the long term. To have fifty priorities is to have no priorities.
Even with increased Aid for Trade, financial resources are not
limitless. Countries need to focus on what is most critical to
increasing exports on the key bottlenecks and constraints and on the
projects that can deliver the biggest return on investment. Making
choices among competing interests and objectives is tough. It is also
Third, thinking regionally, not just nationally. One way to narrow down
priorities is to concentrate on regional needs and projects from
transport corridors to customs modernization. Many countries have small
domestic markets. Many others are landlocked, and their ability to
connect to the global economy and to trade competitively depends
fundamentally on the connectivity and competitiveness of their
neighbours. So in designing and implementing Aid for Trade strategies,
regional integration must be seen as a necessary stepping stone to
global integration. Most African countries are in the trade game
together or not at all.
Fourth, predictability and accessibility of financing. There is a clear
need for donors to follow through on their Hong Kong and broader
Gleneagles commitments. We should be emphasising the need to deliver on
these commitments, not second guessing them. At the same time, the
efficient and effective delivery of financing can be just as important
as the amounts involved especially in a fast-changing global economy.
Donors and financial institutions need to show progress on this front as
well by reducing red tape and fast-tracking disbursement.
Fifth, the key role of the private sector. Aid for Trade will be
relevant if it is market driven. It risks irrelevance if it becomes a
dialogue among bureaucrats. We not only need to listen to traders,
investors and entrepreneurs, but bring them into the conversation and
at the most senior level as we have done over the last day and a half.
Private sector advice can only strengthen trade policy because it
exporters who know their markets, who can identify their priorities, and
who pay the price for delays, bottlenecks and red tape.
We also need to think much more creatively about using Aid for Trade as
a catalyst to leverage the private sector's resources and dynamism. No
matter how successful we are at mobilizing development assistance, aid
will never provide the whole answer to trade capacity gaps. The big
money and the potential for real capacity building lies with the
private sector, and with increased trade, investment and growth.
Finally, cooperation. The reality is that no one ministry or agency or
country can deliver Aid for Trade single-handedly. We have learned that
where there are capacity gaps in Africa they often result from a
breakdown of political cooperation and coherence, not just a lack of
resources. Governments need to coordinate internally. Donors and
financial institutions need to coordinate with each other and with
governments. Countries need to coordinate regionally. And, as we have
seen here, the South should be encouraged to continue increasing its
coordination and cooperation with the South.
The plan now is to produce a concise report of this meeting under the
responsibility of the AfDB, the ECA and the WTO which will be the
transmission belt for your ideas, conclusions and recommendations at the
Global Review in Geneva in November.
My view is that the report should be action-oriented shifting gears
from a discussion of concepts, which has been necessary up to now, to a
discussion of specific plans aimed at concrete results. Moving from
policy debate to needs assessment, and from needs assessment to
First, we need to focus on two or three
priorities for the region ones that will give us a clear set of
objectives to aim for, and against which we can measure our success.
This means making a distinction between medium and long-term objectives,
and distilling our long list of Aid-for-Trade needs down to a short list
of key priorities embodied in a deliverable plan. For example, I have
heard a lot about the need to concentrate on infrastructure, trade
facilitation, trade financing, and food and technical standards and to
think about these priorities in regional terms.
Second, we need to set out a clear timetable
for mapping priorities, mobilizing financing, and implementing projects
so that the Aid-for Trade initiative can start delivering measurable
results. Measuring the efficiency of Aid for Trade is a complex issue.
But we must build upon the analytical work that already exists in the
World Bank and the OECD, for example.
Third, we need to identify a regional
mechanism for bringing together the regional stakeholders including
the private sector and for moving the process forward. Here I believe
the AfDB and ECA are well placed to play a catalytic role.
This report cannot and should not provide
all the answers now, but it should ask the right questions with a view
to making a start on addressing them in Geneva in November.
We need to show that Aid for Trade will deliver results without at the
same time raising unrealistic expectations. We need to provide a plan
that is relevant to this region, fills gaps, and sets out ambitious
but also realizable and specific objectives. Above all, we need to show
that the world trading system can and will deliver more benefits for
those who are still on the margins. Aid for Trade I repeat is no
substitute for a successful Doha Development Round, with development as
a central pillar. It is also no substitute for the right domestic
policies. But Aid for Trade is an increasingly important and necessary
You have made it clear at this meeting that African countries want
to move forward. Let's keep up the momentum. Let's try and make the
Geneva Aid-for-Trade Global Review in November another stepping stone in
this process the ultimate goal of which is to mobilize more and better
Aid for Trade. We know that it has to be more to be better. We also know
that it has to be better to be more.
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