News and Publications : In Brief

15 December 2009

News

European Trade Commissioner selected by EC President
The former Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht has been chosen by the President of the European Commission to lead the EU's international trade negotiations. De Gucht has been selected to take over as the EU's trade commissioner from Lord Baronness Catherine Ashton of Upholland, who was appointed last month to become the EU's first ‘High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy'-a position created under the Lisbon Treaty (see next article). The EU Parliament must approve the position, with votes expected to take place in mid-January 2010. Since Ashton left her job as trade commissioner on 1 December 2009, the post is temporarily filled by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who is also in charge of the EU's External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy. If approved, De Gucht would become the first trade commissioner to come from one of the EU's smaller member states. The previous two trade commissioners-Ashton and Peter Mandelson-were British, and prior to that, the post was held by France's Pascal Lamy, who is now the Director General of the World Trade Organization.

Lisbon Treaty raises uncertainty on ACP-EU relations
The Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009, raising a number of questions on the future of ACP-EU relations. The Treaty states that the primary objective of EU development cooperation policy is the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty; however, specific reference to the ACP, which was present in the previous EU treaty, is omitted.  A European External Action Service will aim to ensure the consistency and coordination of the EU's external action. It will be composed of single geographical and thematic desks under the authority of the High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton). Trade remains the responsibility of the Trade Commissioner. The place of development cooperation will be determined early next year.  In a letter addressed to the heads of European institutions, Mrs. Eunice Kazembe, President of the ACP Council of Ministers, said that the pending WTO deal on trade in bananas presented an opportunity for Europe to allay or confirm ACP fears aroused by the disappearance of the reference to the ACP Group in the Lisbon Treaty. http://www.acpsec.org/en/trade/acpstatementbanana09.html


Publications

Updating Economic Partnership Agreements to Today's Global  Challenges
A new collection of essays published by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) reflect on the state-of-play of the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations between the European Union and African countries, and advise on the best way forward.  While the authors tend to agree that EPAs could do a better job of fostering development in African countries, their essays reveal a marked divergence of opinion on how these agreements should be improved. This is a reflection of "the complexity of the negotiations (and) the necessity of adapting EPAs to the specific needs of different regions or countries", write Emily Jones and Darlan F. Marti, the editors of "Updating Economic Partnership Agreements to Today's Global Challenges". The contributors include a variety of academic, government and civil society representatives, including Patrick Messerlin, director of Groupe d'Economie Mondiale at Sciences Po (GEM), Xavier Carim, deputy director general with the International Trade and Economic Development Division at the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa, and Bert Koenders, the Dutch minister for development cooperation.
To view this report in full, see "Updating Economic Partnership Agreements to Today's Global Challenges", available at: http://www.gmfus.org//doc/GMF7257_Final_Ebook.pdf

World Bank reports says $93 billion a year needed for Africa's infrastructure
The World Bank warns that the poor state of much of Africa's infrastructure reduces the continent's productivity by as much as 40 percent. In a new report, the World Bank calculates that US$93 billion in annual spending is required if African countries are to meet national development targets within the next 10 years: more than twice the figure estimated in 2005 by the Commission for Africa. The Bank notes, however, that the figure is less than the amount China has allocated to infrastructure during the last 20 years. Currently, Africa spends some US$45 billion on infrastructure. An additional $17.4 billion could be captured through improvements in infrastructure management and institutions, according to the Bank, which would leave a US$31 billion funding gap.
To view this report in full, see
"Africa's Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation", available at: https://www.infrastructureafrica.org/aicd/flagship-report

New book says green box subsidies can distort trade
Current WTO requirements set no ceiling on the amount of green box subsidies that governments can provide, on the basis that these payments cause only minimal trade distortion. However, a new book points to growing evidence suggesting that green box payments can affect production and trade, harm farmers in developing countries and cause environmental damage. Governments are increasingly shifting their subsidy spending into the green box category, as they come under pressure to reduce subsidies that are more directly linked to production. According to countries' latest official reports to the WTO, the US provided $76 billion in green box payments in 2007-over nine-tenths of its total spending-while the EU notified €48 billion (US$91 billion) in 2005, or around half of all support provided by the bloc. Contributors to the book, published by Oxford Press, say that green box payments distort trade less than other kinds of subsidy. However, "the impact of a reduction of one dollar in a less decoupled subsidy may be more than compensated for by the impact of a larger increase in a more decoupled subsidy" argue two of the contributors, Carlos Galperín and Ivana Doporto.
To view this report in full, see "Agricultural Subsidies in the WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence with Sustainable Development Goals", available at: http://www.cambridge.org/greenbox

WTO publishes two new reference books
The World Trade Organization has published two important reference tools on trade statistics and policies: "Trade Profiles 2009" and "World Tariff Profiles 2009". The former provides a country-by-country breakdown of trade flows and trade policy measures for WTO members and countries seeking to join the WTO, with information provided in a standardized format for each country. The latter provides information on market access, listing the tariffs imposed by each WTO member on its imports, along with analysis of the market access conditions it faces in its major export markets.

"Trade Profiles 2009" is available here:   http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/trade_profiles09_e.htm

"World Tariff Profiles 2009" Is available here: http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/world_tariff_profiles09_e.htm

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