WTO Head Urges Africa To Strengthen Participation In Trade Talks ST-Quota Textile Trade Starts To Take Shape

26 January 2005

Addressing a meeting of African and Nordic trade ministers in Tanzania on 20 January, WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi urged African countries to take a long-term view in the ongoing negotiations on agriculture. He pointed out that liberalisation of agricultural trade heralded potentially big gains for the continent. Supachai further noted that gains in agriculture within the Doha Round talks would be particularly important for Africa in view of the current Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations (EPAs) with the European Union (EU). According to Supachai, a deal on agriculture in the Doha Round could level the playing field when the time came for Africa to fully liberalise that sector under the EPAs. Supachai further expressed hope that "special treatment" would be given to the issue of cotton within the agriculture talks. On the erosion of trade preferences, Supachai noted the division among developing countries, some of which were seeking tariff reductions on the very products for which African Members were wishing to preserve preferences. He pointed out the need to reconcile these conflicting objectives in future modalities.

With regard to services, Supachai urged Africa to submit more offers. Commenting on international textiles trade which has now been fully liberalised due to the phase out of quotas on 1 January 2005, the Director-General noted the role of the World Bank and the IMF in helping with domestic adjustment processes and reforms, the importance of South-South cooperation and the contribution of the WTO Secretariat. However, he acknowledged that there would be "no simple solutions." On trade related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), Supachai drew the attention of African Ministers to the importance of "playing a leadership role" in replacing the "waiver decision" with a permanent solution in the form of an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The '30 August Decision' by the General Council spells out the circumstances under which countries without pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity can import generic versions of drugs still under patent (see BRIDGES Weekly, 8 December 2004). Finally, Supachai highlighted the fact that mainstreaming trade into overall poverty reduction strategies and programmes was a priority on which the WTO would collaborate with the World Bank, the IMF and other agencies to achieve results.

The full text of the speech is available at: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/spsp_e/spsp34_e.htm

ICTSD reporting.


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