Nairobi WTO meeting ‘left Africa with nothing’ – activists

December 20, 2015
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Sylvester Bagooro, programme officer Third World Network Africa says the Doha Development Agenda was largely sidelined, which is disastrous for Africa’s agricultural transformation/FILE
Sylvester Bagooro, programme officer Third World Network Africa says the Doha Development Agenda was largely sidelined, which is disastrous for Africa’s agricultural transformation/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 20- Over 80 civil society experts from across the world says the outcome of the Nairobi World Trade Organisation 10th Ministerial conference leaves Africa with nothing at a time when the continent is plagued with unemployment especially among the youth.

Sylvester Bagooro, programme officer Third World Network Africa says the Doha Development Agenda was largely sidelined, which is disastrous for Africa’s agricultural transformation.

Others like Timothy Wise, Policy Research Director, Global Development and Environmental Institute, Tufts University says the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration is a betrayal of the development promises embodied in the Doha Development Agenda.

“It reflects the capitulation to insistent US proposals to set aside key Doha issues, such as domestic agricultural support, to reject any reaffirmation of the Doha agenda, and to open the door to issues that favour its own commercial interests,” he said.

During the conference, delegates agreed on the elimination of agricultural and export subsidies, which have largely inhibited the developing countries potential to trade.

The subsidies made agricultural products and exports from developing countries more expensive thus unattractive.

“India, Africa and the developing world have lost out on the 15 years of negotiations by killing the Doha Round in Nairobi. Doha was not just a set of issues. It was a set of negotiating principles and a framework for negotiations,” Right to Food Campaign, India Principal Advisor Biraj Patnaik complained.

“Without the Doha Framework and an explicit re-affirmation of the Doha Development Agenda, developing countries will never be in a position again in the WTO to negotiate the development agenda to their benefit successfully.”

Sophia Murphy, Senior Advisor, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, University of British Columbia said: “The WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference limped to a close in Nairobi today with just a few thin commitments barely sufficient to merit the honorific of declaration. Both the content and the process seen at the Ministerial are a testament to the betrayal not just of the much hailed but never persuasive development components in the Doha Agenda but also the failure of the EU and US to fulfil the promises they made in signing the Uruguay Round Agreements 20 years ago.”

“It is absurd to suggest developing countries should somehow “pay” for the U.S. and E.U. to end more than 50 years of deeply trade distorting agricultural policies. If the US and EU believe all they say about open markets they should not need the WTO to persuade them to stop wasting tax payer money at developing country expense. They should lead by example.”

Developing countries have been protesting against the subsidies as it inhibited their potential to trade.

The subsidies made agricultural products and exports from developing countries more expensive thus unattractive.

Speaking during the closing ceremony on Saturday, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo termed the deal as historical.

“This task has been outstanding since the exporting subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago. Today’s decision tackles issue once and for all,” he said.

He says the move removes the distortion the subsides have caused in agriculture market thereby helping to level the plain field for the benefit of farmers and exporters in developed and least developed countries.

“It will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with exports credit and state trade enterprises,” he added.

The talks which were supposed to end on Friday had stalled with a few BRICS countries blocking the agricultural agenda.

The Nairobi Package contains a series of six ministerial decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries.

These include a commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, which WTO Director-General Azevêdo hailed as the “most significant outcome on agriculture” in the organization’s 20-year history.

The other agricultural decisions cover public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton.

Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

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