BRUSSELS (IDN) – African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ trade ministers will gather in Brussels on October 19 for a strategic two-day meeting to prepare for the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from December 15-18.
According to the ACP Secretariat, the meeting would discuss ACP strategy and adopt a Declaration on the WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi. Key issues of concern for the ACP Group include those related to development, agriculture, Non-Agricultural Goods Market Access (NAMA), and appropriate provisions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs).
The importance of NAMA lies in the fact that over the past years, NAMA products have accounted, according to WTO, for almost 90 percent of the world merchandise exports.
NAMA negotiations in the current Doha Development Agenda (DDA) are important, says WTO, because “despite the significant improvements in market access for NAMA products that previous GATT rounds and the Uruguay Round produced, tariffs continue to be an important barrier to world trade, as tariff peaks, high tariffs, and tariff escalation remain”.
Under the chairmanship of Joshua Setipa, the Minister for Trade and Industry of Lesotho, ACP Ministers will also hold discussions with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström (Sweden), Director General of the World Trade Organization Roberto Azevêdo (Brazil), and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya Ambassador Amina Mohamed.
“This being the first WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in an ACP member state, the ACP Group attaches great importance to the Conference and is committed to do all it can to ensure a successful outcome,” said ACP Secretary General Dr. Patrick Gomes.
The ACP trade ministers’ meeting will be preceded by a meeting of senior trade officials, including the Geneva-based Ambassadors of ACP countries, most of whom have responsibilities of coordination and focal points for various key WTO subjects.
Sixty-one countries of the 79-nation ACP Group of States are members of the WTO, 7 are observers and 11 are neither members nor observers. “The ACP Group is an active participant and key player in the WTO, as was evident in previous Ministerial Conferences, where the Group’s participation has immensely contributed to the outcomes of the meetings,” Dr. Gomes said.
The WTO Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body and usually meets every two years. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements. The previous, Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Bali, Indonesia in 2013.
Nairobi outcome document
One week ahead of the ACP trade ministers’ meeting in Brussels, WTO members gathered in Geneva on October 12, 2015 to confer on an initial process for developing an outcome document for the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
WTO Director Azevêdo announced that he was appointing Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia, Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway and Ambassador Stephen Karau of Kenya (the host country of the 10th Ministerial Conference) as facilitators to consult with members on the outcome document.
According to WTO, the three ambassadors will be asking members for their views on three key issues: the structure of the potential Nairobi outcome document; the elements that the document might cover (which could include priorities for post-Nairobi work); and what subsequent process could be employed to develop a draft of the outcome document.
*INPS is an acronym for the International Press Syndicate that monitors diverse news and information sources around the world, enabling IDN offer news, features and analyses on topics that impact the world and its peoples. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 October 2015]
Images: ACP and WTO