ACP Statement at the High Level Forum on Emerging Issues and Challenges in the Multilateral Trading System, 11-14 September 2012, Nairobi KENYA
Delivered by ACP Assistant Secretary General and Head of the Department of Sustainable Economic Development and Trade, Mr Achille Bassilekin III.
Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Honourable Professor Samson ONGERI; Your Excellency, the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Lodewijk BRIET; Director of the MTS PMU, Mr. Nelson NDIRANGU; Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
At the outset, I wish to express utmost appreciation through you Honourable Minister, to the Leadership, Government and People of Kenya, for hosting this Forum and for the warm welcome and generous hospitality that has been extended to me and my delegation, and indeed to all the delegates here present, since our arrival in this beautiful city of Nairobi. The facilities placed at our disposal are indeed excellent.
I wish to sincerely thank the Hounorable Minister for Foreign Affairs for availing time from his extremely busy schedule to grace this opening ceremony. We all look forward to hearing his speech.
I bring greetings from the Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS who would have wished to be with us here today. However, this was not possible due to other pressing matters. He requested me to extend his apologies and to convey his best wishes for a fruitful meeting.
As the organizers of this High Level Forum, I welcome all the delegates who have come from far and wide. I am extremely pleased by the positive response of ACP States and regional organizations to our invitation and high level of participation. We have delegates from as far as the Pacific and the Caribbean and as close as Kenya’s neighbourhood. Your presence here is a clear testimony to the importance that you attach to the subjects and issues to be discussed. It is also a positive endorsement that Nairobi remains an attractive destination for international conference and meetings.
The objective of this HLF is to share information, exchange views and address a myriad of important new issues and challenges, that arose in the preparatory process for the Eighth World Trade Organization Conference that was held in Geneva in December last year.
These new subjects, sometimes also referred to as the 21st century issues include but are not limited to trade and climate change, energy security, currency exchange issues, trade and job creation and global supply chains.
In the run up to the WTO Ministerial Conference, there were proposals to introduce these new issues into the global trade body. For the time being, the ACP Group does not agree to seemingly over-loading the WTO agenda as most of our countries are not in a position to technically and human resource-wise to engage on these issues.
The ACP Group believes that the current Doha agenda is still relevant and should be dispensed with first. More importantly, implementation issues of the Uruguay Round, which have been outstanding for a long time, should also be comprehensively addressed first before we can venture into new areas.
However, the ACP Group does recognize that there is a possibility to bring in new issues to the WTO through the existing Committees, using normal rules and procedures and within the respective mandates of the Committees and Working Groups.
It is for this reason that we believe that there is need for the ACP Group to prepare itself and seriously reflect on how to move forward on these issues. Indeed organizing this Forum was with the hope and expectation that we shall manage to create greater awareness and deeper understanding of their possible treatment at the multilateral WTO level and also bilaterally with our major trading partners. As you are all aware, most of the ACP States are still locked into negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union, a subject I will return to shortly.
In addition, this Forum will look into the plurilateral agreements such as Government Procurement, Information Technology Agreement (ITA), and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to assess their impact on ACP trade. It is of concern that most of the ACP States have not participated in these plurilateral agreements yet they will no doubt face the ramification of the implementation of these agreements by the signatory states.
We anticipate that the outcome of the High Level Forum will be concrete recommendations and advice on the course of action that the ACP Group should take, especially how policy makers should respond, and particularly important, how negotiators should ensure that development remains at the core and centrality of the multilateral trade engagement.
In this regard, I am pleased to announce that the ACP Secretariat in response to a request by the ACP Missions in Geneva, commissioned a study entitled “Definition of development in the Doha Round negotiations from an ACP perspective”.
This High Level Forum will draw on the content and conclusions of that study to come up with appropriate recommendations, which together with those of other subjects, will be presented for consideration by ACP Ministers of Trade, when they meet in Brussels in the week of 24 – 26 October 2012. The ACP Minister of Trade meeting will culminate in a high level interaction with the European Union Commissioner for Trade in the context of the ACP-EU Joint ministerial Trade Committee (JMTC) on the morning of 26 October 2012.
The ACP Group is concerned with the lack of progress in the Doha Round of negotiations. It has been observed that the key to unlocking the impasse, in the close to eleven-year old Doha negotiation, is striking a balance between the respective contributions and responsibilities of emerging and advanced economies.
Long-standing disagreements between developed economies - such as the United States and European Union - and the major emerging economies - such as Brazil, China, and India - on non-agricultural and agricultural market access, have widely been acknowledged as the reasons for putting the negotiations on hold.
In the view of the ACP, these groups of countries must do more to move the Doha Round forward. We believe that there may be a need for lowering of ambitions on both sides without sacrificing the development agenda, which should at all times remain at the heart of the negotiations. This is necessary for the benefit of the least developed, low income, small and vulnerable economies, islands, land-locked countries - categories of countries to which most of the ACP States belong.
In light of the Doha Round’s current difficulties, we can not but focus on the WTO’s continued relevance in the multilateral trading system. The system will remain relevant only if it can foster positive measures to enable poorer countries to achieve their development objectives. If not, the WTO risks becoming irrelevant.
To conclude, let me acknowledge the useful contribution that the ACP partnership with the European Union has made in this process. This workshop has been made possible through the European Development Fund which is the primary vehicle deployed by the EU to finance activities in the ACP States.
I would like to sincerely thank the European Union for all the assistance that it has provided to the ACP Group in trade and trade-related capacity building. This has contributed to improved design of trade policy in ACP States, human resource capacity development as well as strengthening of the institutions that deal with trade.
Cooperation and partnership between the ACP Group of States has over the years been positive and productive in many spheres. We believe and expect that this will continue well into the future.
I must however state that one issue that is seriously testing the ACP-EU partnership is the process of concluding the Economic Partnership Agreement for the concerned regions.
The detailed arrangements applying as from 1 January 2008 to products entering the European Union from the countries that initialled or signed interim agreements at the end of 2007 were set out in Council Regulation (EC) No. 1528/2007, the so called Market Access Regulation.
The European Commission is proposing that, as of 1 January 2014, those countries which have not signed or ratified their Agreements, should be removed from the list of beneficiaries of this provision.
Countries to be directly affected by this European Commission proposal include Cameroon, Fiji, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Swaziland and Zimbabwe which would fall back on to the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme, which is not as favourable as duty free-quota free market access available under EPAs. This would lead to increased tariffs on most of their key exports.
Botswana and Namibia, which are classified as Upper Middle Income countries would, according to the proposal for the GSP, revert to the Most Favoured Nation rate, as applied to most countries including, developed countries such as the United States and Japan. This is not acceptable.
The ACP Group rejects the notion that imposing such a short unilateral deadline is the best approach to achieve the desired results. In fact, there are well founded reasons why the agreements reached in 2007 have not been implemented, as well as why the comprehensive regional agreements have not been concluded. Several of the agreements concluded in 2007, were reached with individual countries, and not with the whole regions which have continued the negotiations.
It is clear that implementing EPAs by individual countries within a region could have a serious negative impact on the regional integration process. Yet we agree that the objectives behind the EPAs are that the agreements should contribute to deepening the regional integration process as well as foster economic growth and development for all the countries and regions concerned. Partial agreements could have the opposite effect.
This matter of amending the provisions of the Market Access Regulations to exclude some ACP States from benefitting from duty free and quota free access to the European market is to be voted on by the European Parliament, at its sitting in Strasbourg tomorrow (12 September 2012) afternoon.
I believe that this meeting joins me in sending an urgent and strong appeal to the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) who will take part in vote to reject the European Commission proposal and instead allow for the EPA negotiations to continue unfettered until mutually acceptable development friendly agreements are reached. Most Members of the European Parliament understand our concerns and we are hopeful that they will side with us on this issue.
To end, I wish to convey our gratitude to everyone who has facilitated the convening of this Forum. I thank the President of ACE International Consultants based in Madrid, Prof Antonio Bonet and his team who are with us today. ACE International Consultants is the firm that has been contracted to manage the ACP Technical Assistance Programme for the integration of the ACP States into the multilateral trading system.
I would also like to congratulate the Director of the Programme Management Unit, Mr. Nelson Ndirangu and his staff, for successfully steering this programme, which unfortunately will come to a close at the end of this year.
Although the programme is coming to an end, we know there is still a high demand for additional trade capacity support evidenced from new issues such as those we are discussing today. The ACP Secretariat is exploring, jointly with the European Commission, the most suitable way of continuing trade capacity building assistance to ACP States and regions.
With these remarks, I wish us all a successful Forum and thank you for your kind attention.