28 and 30 June 2004

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Benin — Press release: Commitment to reforms and further integration in the world economy raises hopes for poverty reduction prospects

> Burkina Faso — Press release: Trade liberalization and reforms have improved economic performance but they must continue

> Mali — Press release: Trade liberalization and commitment to reforms have helped to enhance the economic environment

This second Trade Policy Review of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali has allowed us all a far better understanding of recent developments in their trade and related policies and in the challenges they face. Our dialogue has been thorough and comprehensive, stimulated by the full and open engagement of the high-level delegations, the insightful comments by the discussant, and the many interventions by Members.

Members commended Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali for their concerted efforts at macroeconomic stabilization and for their structural reforms in the period under review. They noted that sustainable development and poverty alleviation remained a challenge, as did elements of governance and certain structural disadvantages. In this light Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali were encouraged to move ahead with their reform programmes, including privatization, and market and product diversification.

Members were appreciative of the efforts by Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali to simplify their tariff structure, with the implementation of the WAEMU common external tariff reducing unilaterally the average MFN tariff of two of the three Members under review. Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali confirmed their commitment to the multilateral system and the WTO. Some Members suggested that the countries under review should seek to narrow the gap between their bound and applied rates. Members also noted the use of additional border levies and charges as well as the use by Burkina Faso and Mali of WAEMU-agreed administered prices for customs valuation purposes, and progress made recently on this matter.

Members emphasized trade as a tool for development and underlined the importance of the Integrated Framework and other co-operation initiatives. Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali did not benefit fully from their WTO Membership as their own resource constraints did not always allow them to identify and/or exploit opportunities. Several Members indicated that despite their direct or indirect contribution in providing technical assistance to, and promoting trade with the Members under review, the progress in their integration into the multilateral trading system had been slow. Many Members underlined their commitment to continue providing trade-related technical assistance to Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Members noted the dependence of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali on cotton and other agriculture commodities. They raised several questions in this respect while recalling recent cotton-related developments in the WTO; some expressed their support for the gradual elimination of the cotton-support practices of certain developed countries.

Members sought further clarification on:

  • Investment incentives;

  • inter-regional integration process;

  • re-negotiation of tariff bindings;

  • anti-dumping regulations and competition policy;

  • technical barriers to trade;

  • state-trading enterprises;

  • government procurement practices and prospects;

  • intellectual property rights;

  • issues in financial, telecoms, energy, transport and tourism services.

Members appreciated the replies provided by the delegations of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, and looked forward to further responses and clarifications.

In conclusion, I believe that through this Review we have come to a fuller and better appreciation of the progress made by Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali since their first reviews, and of the development challenges that lie ahead. The impressive participation by delegations in this meeting, the number of questions posed, and the active discussion, indicate the importance attached to this Trade Policy Review. I encourage Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali to pursue the implementation of their reform programmes, with a view to enhancing the transparency, predictability, and credibility of their trade regimes, and adherence to the WTO principles. But let me put this into context. Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali face real resource constraints: technical assistance is required from the WTO and other relevant organizations; the needs have been well identified in the Secretariat reports and we should endeavour to meet them. In addition, trading partners can help by ensuring that their markets are open to products from Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali and by further exploring opportunities to assist them in fulfilling their development objectives.