In­ter­view with Aran­cha González

Africa Renewal - - Contents - — Aran­cha González

The In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre (ITC), a sub­sidiary of the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and Devel­op­ment (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO), pro­vides tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance on global trade to busi­nesses in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Aran­cha González, the ITC’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, sat down with Africa Re­newal’s Nirit Ben-Ari and Kings­ley Igho­bor to talk about the cen­tre’s ac­tiv­i­ties and Africa’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in the global mar­ket­place. Th­ese are ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view.

Africa Re­newal: What does ITC do in Africa?

Aran­cha González: Over half of our ac­tiv­i­ties are in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, where we ad­dress the need for skills, ac­cess to cap­i­tal and im­proved com­pet­i­tive­ness. For ex­am­ple, we pro­vide train­ing on how to ac­cess fi­nance for trad­ing.

How do you work on the ground?

We pro­vide ex­per­tise to lo­cal part­ners. There are thou­sands of com­pa­nies that could ben­e­fit if we build ca­pac­ity lo­cally. The ex­per­tise that we pro­vide for mango pro­duc­ers in Sene­gal, for ex­am­ple, will also ben­e­fit pineap­ple or poul­try pro­duc­ers there.

Where else in African coun­tries are you pro­vid­ing ex­per­tise?

We have a project with spice traders in Zanz­ibar, Tan­za­nia. We found out that pro­duc­ers can ob­tain up to 20 times more rev­enue by brand­ing and pack­ag­ing the prod­uct at­trac­tively.

How do you pro­mote trade within Africa?

We pro­mote trade by sup­port­ing the African Union’s goal to make the con­ti­nent a free trade zone, be­cause we think that part of the difficulties is that lo­cal mar­kets are too small. Our key ob­jec­tive is to re­move ob­sta­cles to trade.

What are the ob­sta­cles?

The new ob­sta­cles are non-tar­iffs bar­ri­ers, such as reg­u­la­tory con­straints. Other non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers are tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions and safety stan­dards.

How do you re­duce trade bar­ri­ers?

We sur­vey com­pa­nies and ask them what the bar­ri­ers to ex­port and im­port are. Once we map th­ese bar­ri­ers, we sit down with the com­pa­nies on one side, and the gov­ern­ment and reg­u­la­tory agen­cies on the other and help them iden­tify ob­sta­cles to trade and what has to be done to tackle them.

Tell us about your Aid for Trade pro­gramme.

Aid for Trade is the name we give to devel­op­ment as­sis­tance that builds the pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity of coun­tries and com­pa­nies to trade.

What does Africa need more: aid or trade?

It would be a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to make coun­tries choose between aid and trade. The re­al­ity is that both are needed. The ques­tion is not whether to choose between aid or trade, but how to bal­ance the two.

Do you be­lieve that trade agree­ments tend to favour de­vel­oped economies at the ex­pense of weaker ones?

No, be­cause that state­ment pre­sup­poses that African coun­tries are in­ca­pable of ne­go­ti­at­ing prof­itable trade pacts. And I don’t think this is true.

From a po­si­tion of weak­ness, African coun­tries can’t be very as­sertive at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

I have seen African coun­tries ne­go­ti­ate bi­lat­er­ally and within the WTO. African coun­tries come to the WTO pre­pared and de­fend their in­ter­ests with vigour. They will not sign an agree­ment un­til their in­ter­ests have been taken into ac­count.

Do you ex­pect EU food sub­si­dies to be re­moved soon?

African pres­sure has led the EU to re­think part of its agri­cul­tural sub­sidy pro­gramme. And now the EU is of­fer­ing to elim­i­nate ex­port sub­si­dies. That’s a vic­tory for Africans who have said, “We will not ne­go­ti­ate an agree­ment with you be­cause you are dump­ing food prod­ucts in Africa.”

In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre

Aran­cha González, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre.

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