African trade mile­stone

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NAIROBI — The World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion reached deals on agri­cul­tural ex­port sub­si­dies, food aid and other is­sues last Satur­day, cap­ping a min­is­te­rial con­fer­ence in the Kenyan cap­i­tal where rich and poor coun­tries had been split over the path of trade re­form.

Mem­bers said the Nairobi deal had drawn a line un­der years of stale­mate over the di­rec­tion of global trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“Our work in Nairobi marks a turn­ing point for the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion,” US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man said in a state­ment.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions “started a new phase in the WTO’S evo­lu­tion” and showed “what is pos­si­ble when the mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing sys­tem comes to­gether to solve a prob­lem.” The Geneva-based WTO, which in­vited Liberia and Afghanistan to be­come its 163rd and 164th mem­bers, has been try­ing and largely fail­ing to agree on a world­wide pack­age of trade re­forms since a meet­ing in Doha in 2001 hatched an am­bi­tious plan for knock­ing down trade bar­ri­ers.

The four-day Nairobi con­fer­ence was ex­tended by a fi­nal non-stop 24-hour ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the ma­jor trad­ing pow­ers, who agreed on a pack­age that in­cluded phas­ing out agri­cul­tural ex­port sub­si­dies and re­strict­ing agri­cul­tural ex­port cred­its.

Kenya’s For­eign Min­is­ter Amina Mo­hamed, who had de­scribed the WTO’S ne­go­ti­at­ing func­tion as bro­ken at the sum­mit’s open­ing, said she was con­fi­dent that the Nairobi talks had ac­tu­ally “strength­ened” the body over the week.

“For me, Nairobi will be re­mem­bered as hav­ing made that leap from a time when we were di­vided along this de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing di­vide,” she said.

The meet­ing, the first min­is­te­rial meet­ing to be held in Africa, had ear­lier hailed an agree­ment to re­move im­port tar­iffs on 201 in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts, mark­ing the first ma­jor global tar­iff-cut­ting deal in 19 years. In ad­di­tion, more coun­tries signed on to the Trade Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Agree­ment, which eases the pas­sage of goods be­tween coun­tries.

— Reuters

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