Trade experts say the dispute system supports the whole of the WTO , and there would be little point in negotiating new rules if there was no effective enforcement mechanism. African countries have been largely absent from the debate; Only five have signed a country petition regularly raised at monthly WTO dispute-settlement meetings. The African Group suggested several rule changes to ensure the system keeps working, some of which were similar to proposals from the European Union. It proposed increasing the number of Appellate Body members from seven to nine, introducing non-renewable seven-year terms, allowing members to finish ongoing cases for two years after their term, and giving them longer to complete each case.
Africa and the World Trade Organization: The Issues in Brief
Welcome to Africanews Please select your experience. Watch Live. Breaking News Close. The broad agricultural negotiating platform as agreed by African Trade Ministers in several of their declarations is that account should be taken of the need for appropriate policy space that would allow African countries to pursue agricultural policies that are supportive of their development goals, poverty reduction strategies, food security and livelihood security concerns, while ensuring improved market access for the agricultural products of African countries both in primary and processed forms.
First, ambition in agriculture is led by South Africa as a member of the Cairns Group 9. The Cotton-Four countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali that seek elimination of trade distortions in cotton also fall in this category. Second, the combination of ambition and development objectives are represented by Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and, Tanzania as G members. Fourth, protection is represented by Mauritius, a member of the G10 with protectionist interests in agriculture. Other African Members that tabled more than five individual proposals included Zimbabwe once dubbed "the bread basket of Africa" and with a strong offensive interest in the agriculture negotiations as a G member ; Kenya with individually professional motivated delegates ; Nigeria second largest economy on the continent, also with a strong offensive interest in agriculture and member of the G ; and, Mauritius with one of the leading competitive African economies with regard to domestic reform, despite having a defensive interest in the agriculture negotiations as part of the G However, "volume" is not necessarily a good predictor of "quality" and does not indicate the likelihood of "consensus" and "passage".
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Some African Members have overlapping membership in a number of these groups. Tanzania is an example. This raises questions about the mutual supportiveness, consistency in policy and negotiating positions of so many proposals onto which an individual Member signs. This is an illustration of the continued inertia with a special and differential treatment orientation that has characterized the overall negotiating position of several African WTO Members. But, this should not undermine the fact that African WTO Members have been active in these negotiations where they have overcome typical capacity constraints by operating on a coalitional basis.
This intelligent compensation for the standard capacity weakness of African WTO Members has contributed significantly in explaining their increased level of negotiating engagement in the Doha agriculture negotiations. This has revolved around policy space; special and differential treatment conditioned on less-than-full-reciprocity; flexibility in tariff binding coverage commensurate with development objectives; separation of flexibilities and ambition levels; WTO mechanisms to address preference erosion and non-tariff measures, LDCs exemption from tariff reduction commitments, and, opposition to deeper liberalization through sectoral initiatives.
The "development-oriented" position of the NAMA 11 is to minimize further de-industrialization and achieve policies such as diversification, employment and other trade-development objectives. Second, are the "paragraph 6" countries averse to per cent industrial tariff binding coverage for policy flexibility reasons.
Third, the LDC exemption category.
Fourth, the small vulnerable economy category seeking flexibilities because of special status. In addition, there has been country-specific flexibilities sought inter-alia because of the impact of industrial tariff cuts on customs union partners. Most of the individual proposals had a defensive orientation because of expressed concerns about potential exacerbation of de-industrialization, unemployment, government revenue loss as a result of tariff reductions and the need to ensure a level of harmonization of assumed commitments with customs union partners.
This higher volume of proposals is "nominalism" from which quality does not necessarily follow. In the period to , with the exception of the Middle East region, African Members tabled the fewest proposals in relation to those from other regions. They have requested for special and different treatment because of purported autonomous liberalization undertaken within the framework of structural adjustment programmes of international financial institutions for which they have sought credit; or because of economic status or insistence that their services industries are still too weak to compete and should be shielded.
Some have also argued that domestic prudential regulations are either non-existent or too weak to allow for competition.
In this context, it is observed that the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of December exempted LDCs many of which are African countries from undertaking additional commitments. In the period after this Declaration, the focus of LDCs was on obtaining preferential market access treatment and a waiver from the most favoured nation provision to ensure the possibility of receiving these preferences without violating the most favoured nation MFN rule. In the negotiations on regional trade agreements, the overall position adopted has been that the Enabling Clause 15 should not be re-opened and that the negotiations on systemic issues must address the Doha principle of "less than full reciprocity", asymmetry in market access, and Africa's development concerns with regard to RTAs with developed countries, pursuant to GATT Article XXIV and GATS Article V.
With the exception of South Africa and Egypt, interest, use and experience with trade remedy instruments have been limited. Egypt's greater use and experience with trade remedy instruments are reflected in its tabling of 30 proposals in this perceived complex trade policy area. Several factors explain the low level of Africa's overall engagement in this area identified as a priority. International trade is currently characterized more by global supply chain networks. It could be argued that Africa's very low overall number of proposals correspond to their low level of integration, although they are victims of dumped products in their markets; absence of domestic laws and regulation for trade remedies; and, low world trade shares and limited trade with countries from other regions.
On the latter, Africa's total merchandise export to the world in was at 0.
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In addition, very few African countries have been the target of trade remedy measures — anti-dumping or countervailing measures. Exports from eight African countries 18 were the subject of anti-dumping initiations by other countries in the period to It could also be argued that the low number of individual proposals tabled tends to confirm the proposition that there is an inverse relationship between the degree of complexity and specialisation, on the one hand and tabled proposals on the other. The more complex and specialised the negotiating area, the lower the number of tabled proposals.
The majority of proposals have focused on special and differential treatment in the imposition of trade remedies against developing countries or in new disciplines to be developed in the area of fisheries subsidies to take into account their special situations and concerns and the importance of the fisheries sector for livelihood and food security. This is a low level of engagement for an amendment that African countries vigorously pursued with the involved support of civil society groups and other lobbies.
The extension to other products of the higher level of protection of geographical indications accorded to wines and spirits, and, the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD , including bio-piracy concerns. The Group also supports the extension of the higher protection of Geographical Indications for wines and spirits to other products, including for a number of African products such as handicrafts, coffee and tea.
With the exception of their expressed group interest that the negotiations should take account of concerns of developing countries, there seems to be no formulated common negotiating position on this relatively complex, contemporary,critical and substantive inter-relationship between trade and environment. Complexity of work in this area seems to have been enhanced by overlapping and unresolved issues in multilateral negotiations in two different arenas, namely multilateral environmental agreements MEAs and the WTO Doha negotiations.
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In addition to the technical and intellectual complexity of negotiating issues in the two different arenas, African WTO negotiators have been further handicapped by minimal to non-existing levels of domestic coordination amongst line ministries and departments accounting for insufficient to zero concrete negotiation instructions from their capitals. It suggests that the establishment of such a group, as a trade related technical assistance and capacity building mechanism would be a concrete outcome in strengthening the relationship between WTO agreements and MEAs.
It is configured around policy space and flexibility; special and differential treatment; trade solutions to "correct" preference erosion; trade rules that accommodate poverty reduction strategies; and, livelihood concerns that take into account the needs of net food importing developing countries, LDCs and commodity producers.
The development dimension is also based on the concept of differentiation of countries in the trading system.
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They have sought deeper, better and more secure preferential market access and requested for mobilization of more development assistance funding to improve supply capacity. However, work remains on achieving consensus on the substance of the majority of their Agreement-specific proposals on special and differential treatment and on a monitoring mechanism.
The trade facilitation negotiations have generally been viewed as win-win for all WTO Members. The common position of African WTO Members is premised on the benefits that would accrue from trade facilitation measures for enhanced competitiveness in African economies and the promotion of intra-Africa trade. The common position links the "potential benefits" with associated costs and availability of financial and technical resources for capacity building to implement outcomes.
They have compensated for weaknesses in tabling individual positions through increased participation on the Group platform, including participation in the trade facilitation informal group known as the Core Group of Developing Countries. Landlocked African countries have been most active in these negotiations, with their activism driven by persistent transit problems which have negatively impacted their trade.
The cases of Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia are illustrative. Although studies have indicated that, historically, landlocked countries have been poorer than littoral states, they have sought to overcome this disability through bilateral trade and co-operation agreements.
The present reality however is that landlocked countries inevitably, because of their situation have become trading countries and are more outward looking as evidenced in the trade facilitation negotiations where African landlocked countries have been at the forefront. LDCs have been very active in the trade facilitation negotiations, including the three landlocked countries above, Benin and Tanzania.
This has included a specific proposal to establish a fund for WTO dispute settlement. The position of African Members is also predicated on the effective enforcement of the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body where the African Group has advocated for collective retaliation on behalf of an affected developing or least-developed country, where such suspension of concessions would negatively impact its economy.
Despite the fact that dispute settlement negotiations are as much a function of commercial interest as systemic considerations in which all Members, regardless of trade shares and commercial interests, should engage in maximally, the reality is a very low level of participation in the DSU negotiations by African WTO Members. Egypt, Tanzania and Zimbabwe co-sponsored proposals with other Like-Minded Group of developing countries. In addition, it is observed that the level of African engagement further reduced as the negotiations advanced, became more detailed and required more in-depth technical knowledge and experience to identify lacuna in the system beyond "access".
First, resort has been made to the Advisory Centre on WTO Law which has provided both open and private advice in several areas. Second, the WTO legal internship system has increased opportunity and space for Africans to gain more insight and understanding of the workings of the system. Third, several institutions have provided policy and quasi-legal advice on negotiations including the South Centre.
But, African WTO Members are yet to fully seize the opportunity provided by some Geneva-based law firms for pro-bono legal services.
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In the final analysis, even if more has to be done to increase supply of legal training from providers, greater coordinated efforts and associated responsibility are also required from African consumers of legal supply of training and advice to ensure sustained accumulation and expert application of knowledge and skills acquired. At the core, the level of engagement by African WTO Members in regular work has been low in terms of share of individual statements made; submission of proposals, and, notification compliance.
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The striking nature of regular committee work different from the negotiating environment is that it constrains Members, including African countries to participate at the individual level.