Kenya must stream­line trade diplo­macy struc­tures be­fore vi­tal UNCTAD meet

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Analysis - LEONARD WANYAMA

It was sur­pris­ing to see the sub­tle an­nounce­ment of changes in Kenya’s trade diplo­macy struc­ture so soon af­ter the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion 10th Min­is­te­rial Con­fer­ence (WTO-MC10) in Nairobi last year. A keen ob­server could not miss the trans­fer of in­ter­na­tional trade ac­tiv­i­ties and func­tions to the Min­istry of In­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion in eval­u­a­tions of the con­fer­ence.

Con­sid­er­ing the tone of cel­e­bra­tion from the Cabi­net Sec­re­tary for For­eign Af­fairs, Amina Mo­hamed, this de­vel­op­ment could be per­ceived as a pol­icy in­di­ca­tor that all may not have gone well in terms of agree­ments reached at the con­fer­ence. Al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tives of WTO-MC10 based on the text of the agree­ment point to the fact that es­sen­tial as­pects of the Doha De­vel­op­ment Round were not con­clu­sively dealt with. De­spite Ms Mo­hamed terming the con­fer­ence a suc­cess, the out­comes of the meet­ing point to a very dif­fer­ent re­al­ity.

Fore­most, it is no­table that ex­port sub­si­dies were not out­lawed; rather the Nairobi agree­ment sim­ply put a cap on ex­ist­ing lev­els of ex­port sup­port. Se­condly, do­mes­tic agri­cul­tural sub­si­dies, which are the most trade-dis­tort­ing poli­cies, were not open to dis­cus­sion by rich coun­tries as they were ac­tively re­sisted by pow­er­ful par­tic­i­pants such as the US.

The Nairobi Out­come there­fore left dam­ag­ing pro­grammes such as the 2014 US Farm Bill un­af­fected and in one piece, mostly be­cause they did not fea­ture in any dis­cus­sions. Thirdly, the reaf­fir­ma­tion of the Bali De­ci­sion on pub­lic stock­hold­ing post­poned the de­sire for a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to chal­lenges faced in en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity.

Also, the much cel­e­brated agree­ment on in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (IT) has very limited gains for Africa or most other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. While it low­ers costs of a few IT prod­ucts, it elim­i­nates the pos­si­bil­ity for poor govern­ments to raise rev­enues by im­pos­ing tar­iffs. Again, the big­gest win­ners of the ITA are de­vel­oped coun­tries that heav­ily man­u­fac­ture IT prod­ucts.

Look­ing at the ex­empted tar­iff lines un­der the Least De­vel­oped Country (LDC) pack­age, close to 90 per cent of the goods ex­ported by poor coun­tries will not be cov­ered by the deal. Fi­nally, the WTO de­ci­sion-mak­ing prin­ci­ple of “one country, one vote” was cast aside to al­low a few rich or pow­er­ful coun­tries to un­der­mine the Doha Round at Nairobi.

De­vel­op­ing coun­tries there­fore have an up­hill task in ne­go­ti­a­tions that will fol­low in Geneva with­out the strong set of prin­ci­ples or frame­work that was pro­vided for by the Doha Round. Many hope­ful par­tic­i­pants left with a gloomy sense that the WTO-MC10 was con­verted into the grave­yard of de­vel­op­ment is­sues.

Lacked co­her­ent strat­egy

All th­ese point to a glar­ing fail­ure of the Ju­bilee ad­min­is­tra­tion to think through a co­her­ent strat­egy for eco­nomic and trade diplo­macy.

In tak­ing over from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his team failed to com­plete the in­her­ited de­bate that no mat­ter where the country looked to­wards for its ex­ter­nal re­la­tion­ships, its pol­icy fo­cus was ei­ther a mat­ter of trade, eco­nom­ics or com­merce. In terms of word­ing, trade, eco­nomic, or

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