High level meeting to discuss services reforms and negotiations for development in Sub-Sahara Africa: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

13 November 2011

Press Contact: Kiranne Guddoy, kguddoy@ictsd.ch

NAIROBI, KENYA - The workshop "Positioning services reforms and negotiations for development" will bring together experts and policy makers from national governments, Regional Economic Communities (REC), the private sector and other non state actors throughout Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) for a comprehensive overview of the various efforts to reform and integrate services for development in SSA.

The International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP) and the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), with support - on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) - from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) will jointly host the meeting from 14 - 16 November, 2011 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi, Kenya.

This 3-day workshop is aimed at facilitating an enhanced understanding on the linkages between services reforms, negotiations, and sector development, while promoting greater coherence in the use of services negotiations and integration as a tool for service sector policy development.

Services matter for economic growth and development. For many SSA countries, the services sector represents the largest share of the economy and as countries develop services sector tends to increase. Services reforms are critical to generate the productivity and competitiveness needed in developing countries especially Least Developed Countries (LDC) to achieve development goals. However, services reforms have proven to be challenging in part because of concerns about the realization of regulatory reforms. For instance these reforms and negotiation processes run at different paces, use different legal structures and follow different patterns. They also often engage different stakeholders with seemingly divergent views and as a result, may even work at odds with one another.

LDCs are also actively engaged in the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations in the framework of the Doha Round, the services reform agenda under regional integration is moving ahead, with various RECs across the continent looking to better integrate their respective services markets via trade and common regulation.  Regional integration is also being pursued at higher levels, such as the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Agreement as well as the African Economic Community.  Another layer of negotiations are also taking place with third parties, such as the European Union in the context of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and the possible inclusion of services (and investment) in comprehensive EPAs.

In this context this workshop will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas on a number of related topics, including services negotiations and integration in SSA, services sector policy and regulation development, and aid for trade in services.

A specific session will focus on the role of service coalitions to engage private sector in services reform and will be followed by a round table featuring private sector representatives' views on the subject. Another session will provide practical recommendations that may be used to conduct negotiations on services, including regulatory audits and competitiveness assessments.  Sector-specific breakout sessions of half hour (telecommunications, transport, and financial services) will allow participants to work on smaller groups and address in more concrete detail some the key themes presented during the workshop.

The meeting will also be attended by select stakeholders from the civil society, as well as researchers in academia, think tanks and regional research networks working on trade and regulatory policies.  A small number of non-African experts from international organisations, think tanks, NGOs, and donors and their implementing agencies will also be present.

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Note to editors:

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) is a nonpartisan think tank, based in Geneva, which - by empowering stakeholders in trade policy through information, networking, dialogue, well targeted research, and capacity building -seeks to influence the international trade system such that it advances the goal of sustainable development. http://www.ictsd.org/