Opening statement by Hon. Joshua Setipa, Chairman of the ACP Ministers of Trade Meeting and Minister of Trade & Industry of Lesotho, 20 October 2015, Brussels
Delivered at the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Ministers of Trade meeting on 20-21 October to discuss a ACP position for the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in Nairobi, Kenya 15-18 December.
Colleague Ministers, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I join the Secretary-General in welcoming you to ACP House for this meeting of the ACP Ministers of Trade. I am encouraged that so many colleagues were able to come to Brussels, knowing the numerous conflicting engagements that most of us are confronted with. However, our presence today is a clear testimony of the importance that our countries attach to trade.
We all know that trade contributes to growth, development and prosperity. Increased trade and investment can also curtail jobless growth and curb high unemployment. Trade can contribute to the reduction of poverty and inequality and at the same time support the environment and contribute to sustainable development.
For all our States in the ACP Group, equitable integration into the global trading system remains a formidable challenge against the backdrop of current marginalisation of our countries.
Most of our countries suffer from inherent structural constraints and infrastructural deficits. A number of our States depend on commodity exports to traditional markets, in some cases one single commodity is the major foreign exchange earner.
Coupled with the uncertainty of benefits from the final outcome of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations and the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union, we must work to respond to this dire situation that we all face.
We have witnessed increasing globalisation with geographical shifts in patterns of growth, trade and investment. We have also witnessed technological advances and the rise of international value chains.
In addition, the proliferations of preferential trade agreements and the growing influence and use of non-tariff measures that become barriers to trade. All these are some of the factors that will continue to impact on ACP’s trade in the future. We have no choice but to do all we can, within our means, to surmount them.
We should not be deceived or become complacent from the seemingly improved performance of some of our economies. There is a lot more that needs to be done and to be achieved, if we are to get onto a sustainable and sustained irreversible path of economic growth.
Therefore, as we meet today to prepare for our Group’s participation at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in an ACP State, we all attach great importance to the Conference and we should all commit to do all we can to ensure a successful outcome.
The whole world is looking closely at the multilateral trading system and is keen to see if the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference will build on the optimism created with the Bali outcome. The outcome of the Ninth WTO Conference went some way into restructuring the Doha Development Round and restoring some hope and confidence. However, preparations for the Nairobi Ministerial is of great concern and has created some anxiety.
Our Members in Geneva have put forward proposals that have been recognised but are not yet included in the so called mini-package.
As of today, the agenda for the Conference has not been set.
The nature of the outcome document has not been agreed. The road ahead is foggy. This is not good news.
When the current WTO Round was launched, it was referred to as the Doha Development Agenda, because it promised to deliver on development. So far that development promise has eluded us and has proved to be a mirage. Bur we have to keep on keeping on, pushing for our interests and to have our concerns fully addressed.
We are concerned that some Members are even calling for the DDA to be abandoned altogether. We need to discuss how to respond to such calls.
The European Union, our key development partner is currently debating its future trade and investment policy.
Part of the strategy that the EU has outlined is a welcome proposal to reinvigorate the multilateral trading system. But there is also the idea of, and I quote, “turning the page on the DDA”.
How will this be done?
The answer to that will be partly be the subject of our exchange this afternoon with the European Commissioner for Trade, Ms. Cecilia Malmstrom. We have in the past been concerned by some EU actions which tend to impact on our trade relations. The European Union’s bilateral agreements with third countries has eroded some of the perceived benefits that we expected to get from the Economic Partnership Agreements, such as trade preferences.
In particular, the Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the European Union and the United States, if concluded with tariff liberations between the parties could do no hard to some of our exports. We have learnt that trade diversion will result, and a clear case in point is cars from South Africa. There could well be other products that will be affected but this will be clear once the Agreement is concluded.
I am also informed that the WTO Director General will join us tomorrow morning for an exchange of views. In his capacity as the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, we expect that he will be able to update us on progress in the DDA as well as in the preparations for the Nairobi Ministerial.
Before concluding, I invite you to join me in commending the ACP negotiators in Geneva for the good work they have been doing through the presentation of proposals and engaging with the WTO members. They have continuously worked hard to defend the interests of our group. I wish to also acknowledge the contribution of the team of consultants that has provided technical inputs for our work.
To close, I urge us to remain steadfast in our goals. Let us work to rally all WTO members to make Nairobi a success and in so doing to restore the pride of place of the WTO and the multilateral trading system.
I thank you for your kind attention.
(Photo: Lesotho Minister of Trade and Industry Hon. Joshua Setipa (centre) opening the ACP Ministers of Trade meeting to discuss a position for the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference)