Africa: Countries Should Bolster Efforts to Reform Their Trade Regimes, August 04, 2008

Ways to strengthen cooperation amongst world economies so that the poorest and most vulnerable countries can take part effectively in global trade will be a key matter of discussion at a forthcoming conference in New Delhi, India.

Trade and finance ministers, trade negotiators, academics and representatives from businesses and civil society organisations across the world will meet 11-13 August 2008 at an event which is being co-hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with, amongst others, CUTS-International, a leading civil society organisation based in South Asia.

Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development, Isabel Guerrero, Country Director for the World Bank’s India office, and Ransford Smith Commonwealth Deputy-Secretary General are among those taking part in discussions.

The conference’s main focus is the need to ‘develop a global partnership for development’ which is the eighth Millennium Development Goal (MDG).

“If this MDG is to be achieved then wealthy countries must reform their trade regimes and facilitate the participation of poor and small vulnerable countries in the international trading system to improve their development prospects,” says Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Ransford Smith.

“By bringing together a broad cross section of stakeholders at an open dialogue and free-frank exchange of views, we hope to re-energise the global debate.”

This conference has been organised in the backdrop of a stalled WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations as well as slow progress in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations involving African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union.

“Developed countries had committed to helping poorer developing countries fulfil the MDGs, which went beyond Doha and EPA negotiations. We should also remember that MDG 8 on partnership for development goes beyond trade negotiations,” Mr Smith added.

At the meeting, which will be attended more than 150 international participants, the challenges faced by least developed countries and small vulnerable economies in the international trading system and their implications for their development objectives will be given special emphasis and the conference is expected to come up with useful recommendations.

The International Trade and Regional Cooperation Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat earlier commissioned a comprehensive study in this regard, which will be presented as the theme paper of the conference.

The conference will also review issues related to aid for trade, services trade, development cooperation, and mainstreaming development in multilateral trade negotiations.

“It is vital,” says Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, “to find out alternative means for forging a better partnership for development between the rich and poor nations on trade and regulatory issues given the recent collapse of WTO talks in Geneva and to get the importance of international trade for a country’s growth back into the radar screens of the international policy community.”

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