Kenya WTO conference AP Photo/Sayyid Azim
On Tuesday December 15 the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was opened in Nairobi, Kenya with an appeal by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for concrete results.
“Our countries firmly believe in the multilateral trading system’s ability to deliver meaningful outcomes for our growth, development and poverty reduction strategies,” Kenyatta said.
The conference is being held in the Kenyatta International Convention Centre from Tuesday to Friday this week and includes over 6,000 delegates. The aim of the conference is to reduce and perhaps even eliminate trade obstacles on the continent along with tariffs and non-tariff barriers. The hope is that this round of negotiations over the Doha Development Agenda which was established in 2001 will yield positive results helping to balance out trade between developed and developing nations.
Kenyatta during his speech pressed for all negotiating groups represented at the conference to “seize this moment, reach for a mutually beneficial compromise, and allow yourselves no result except success.”
The deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth, which represents 53 countries, Deodat Maharaj, said that internal policies in Africa first have to address trade imbalances before negotiating with other countries, reported the Daily Observer.
“You cannot trade effectively if you do not tap the sum total of your entire market, and to tap the sum total of the entire market of Africa, we need to open up corridors, economic corridors, so that trade from one country will be seamless,” said Maharaj
Whilst there is seemingly a lot of hope surrounding this conference some observers are suspicious of the WTO as a whole. Yash Tandon, an economist and CEO of the Southern and Eastern Trade Information and Negotiations Institute told the Daily Observer that the WTO does not have the solutions that Africa needs.
“The WTO is asymmetrical, unequal and the power is held by the Western countries in league with the secretariat of the WTO, which is totally biased against us [Africa]. So in that kind of climate, where they are pushing for what they call free trade, it’s totally unbalanced against us,” Tandon stated.
Africa and the world will have to wait until Friday to see what the conference produces, meanwhile keeping fingers crossed for a positive outcome.