African trade ministers agreed Tuesday to support the package at the on-going World Trade Organisation’s ninth Ministerial Conference (MC9), taking place in Bali, Indonesia, in the interest of the developing economies and the global economy at large.
There are three main items in the package – trade facilitation (to streamline customs procedures and minimise unnecessary border delays, delivering jobs and opportunities in times of unemployment and slow growth); agriculture (which Nigeria and other African countries are really interested in); and development, which applies mainly to Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
A statement said the ministers agreed, during a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States and a working dinner co-organised by Nigeria, that there should be convergence in Bali after the Doha talks, which have been on for about 12 years.
The Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, who spoke with journalists after the dinner, said the consensus among African countries, “bearing in mind that no one gets everything he wants in a package and that people have to compromise, is that Nigeria and other African countries have agreed to support the package as presented in Bali and work towards a deal in the next few days.”
Aganga said: “At the last ministerial meeting in Geneva. Which I chaired (MC8), one of the conclusions was that the WTO should identify some of the elements of Doha where there was very little disagreement and which would be beneficial to members with a view to delivering a package around those areas. Those areas were areas to do with trade facilitation, which is beneficial to everyone.
“The second is agriculture, which Nigeria and most African countries are interested in, bearing in mind that agriculture accounts roughly for about 40 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product and employs close to 70 per cent of our population. Under agriculture, the focus is on general services, stockholding for food security purposes and export competition, among others.”
The minister added: “Under stockholding, some countries heavily subsidise staple foods just to make sure that when prices are high, they are available for poor people in their countries. Where there is surplus production, they can buy them at a particular price, stock hold them and then release them when it becomes necessary. WTO and its members are not opposed to that, but they are more interested in making sure that when such happens, there are mechanisms in place to ensure that the subsidised foods do not get into the global multilateral trading system. They are also looking at the duration etc.
“The third arm of the package is on development, and this applies mainly to the LDCs. Generally, however, the LDCs are happy with the package. If you look at trade facilitation, for instance, if it goes through and is well implemented, it is worth about $1.3trillion to the global economy per year and that means jobs, it means opportunities. Part of the principle is that if you spend $1 on trade facilitation; you get about $1,500 worth of benefits to the economy.”
He said the Nigerian delegation would take the package back to Nigeria if all the 159-member countries could reach a consensus in the next few days.
Aganga said, in terms of trade facilitation, the benefit would be a reduction in the cost and time of doing business, noting that it would also result in a reduction in the cost and time of exporting or importing products.
“I must say that whether we have a deal or not, I think it is still a good document for us to work on and we intend to implement all the relevant bits because it is still our responsibility to reduce the cost and time of doing business,” he said.