Magazine article African Business

Global Trade Negotiation System Needs an Upgrade

Magazine article African Business

Global Trade Negotiation System Needs an Upgrade

Article excerpt

Trade ministers from around the world will gather this December for the first WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Africa. The stakes are higher and longer-term than they appear at first glance.

The Nairobi Ministerial Conference is as much about advancing long-running negotiations as it is about upgrading the global trade and investment operating system as new "apps" increasingly define the system, even as they are dependent on the system for much of their functioning.

The resolution of this tension will have implications not only for trade competitiveness and growth, but also for global inclusion and the ability of countries to use trade policy for sustainable development.

These developments will not see the light of day inside the negotiating venue, but they will be discussed in detail among top policymakers and experts at the ICTSD Trade and Development Symposium next door, which provides a parallel platform for engaging negotiators and others on the long-range, systemic issues that face the global community.

The Nairobi meeting presents an opportunity to move the global system ahead, but it also serves as a vexing reminder of the inability of the 15-year-old Doha Round of negotiations to deliver on development.

It takes place in a changing context in which countries are stretching the nature of the global system from the WTO-centric world to one characterised by preferential agreements.

The recent conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the most visible of these agreements, but similar developments are being negotiated among African countries, for example, via the planned Continental Free Trade Area of Africa (CFTA).

Interestingly, the functioning of these new agreements depends on a well-functioning WTO, not only for basic principles, but also for interpretation of existing norms and adjudication. …

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