Yesterday TOP hosted former candidate for WTO Director General, Alan Kyerematen at a joint event held with the Overseas Development Institute and chaired by Lord Harrison, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s UK representative to the WTO. We were also joined by Dirk Willem te Velde, Head of the International Economic Development Programme at ODI.
Alan Kyerematen is the former Trade Minister of Ghana, and one of the leading political figures of his country. He is also a former ambassador to the US, one of the lead negotiators for Africa at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun (2003) and the initiator of the UNCTAD World Investment Forum. Mr Kyerematen’s candidacy received the backing of the African Union, and he continues in his role as Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at the Economic Commission for Africa.
Mr Kyerematen began by emphasising his support for the WTO as an institution saying, “the WTO is still a global asset that encourages growth. It is the only firewall we have against protectionism”. However, for its credibility to be boosted a new trade consensus is necessary. He offered 3 goals to achieve this new consensus:
– A harvest of some parts of the Doha Round at Bali to restore confidence
– A new roadmap for completing the rest of Doha
– A new agenda to be set out that will address specific problems
The 5 strategic drivers required to achieve a reinvigorated WTO suggested by Mr Kyerematen are:
– Renewed political commitment from all members
– The WTO is for all and the diversity of its membership must be reflected in its workings
– The WTO should move closer to non-state actors (business, NGOs, parliamentarians) – Geneva is too remote
– We need to look at development differently, developing countries must use the preference system as a shifting tool – preferences are not an end in themselves
– There must be a healthy balance between regional and multilateral negotiations
In terms of the Bali Ministerial in December, Mr Kyerematen emphasised that while Trade Facilitation is important, the needs of LDCs must not be forgotten – duty-free, quota-free access for LDCs was essentially agreed in Hong Kong in 2006 and it must remain a key part of any package agreed in Bali.
That a development package must remain central to the WTO Ministerial agenda was echoed by Dirk Willem te Velde from ODI. Mr te Velde said that, despite its currently shaky credibility, the WTO remains in many ways a model institution which inclusive membership policies and a 1 member, 1 vote system. He argued that the WTO should take a more specific problem-solving approach, measuring the economic and social benefits of resolving each issue.
Mr te Velde argued that the WTO should have a more official and vocal role in keeping trade issues on the domestic agendas of its members. The WTO could act as a watchdog to help countries keep their promises. For instance the EU promised at the Hong Kong Ministerial in 2006 to eliminate export subsidies by 2013, but now the deadline has been missed there is no formal role for the WTO to put pressure on them to keep their word.
As well as removing damaging agricultural subsidies, opening up trading opportunities for LDCs is vital for increasing food security. Trade is an aid to natural resource scarcity and must be recognised as such.
Mr Kyerematen ended by saying it must be recognised that countries should not be expected to give up their specific priorities in order to support an easier agreement such as trade facilitation unless there is a commitment to return to keep other issues on the agenda: “The WTO has a limited understanding of what constitutes the ‘collective interest’”.
To reinvigorate the WTO and the negotiations that could give much needed opportunities to the world’s poorest to trade their way out of poverty requires:
– Constructive engagement
– Incremental consensus building
– WTO belongs to everybody and its negotiations must reflect that