Summary and Policy Recommendations
As a follow up of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held at Doha in November 2001, a regional seminar was organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society- Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) at Lusaka in March 2002 to discuss its outcome. The two-day event focused on Doha Ministerial Declaration and the work programme adopted for trade liberalisation. This is keeping in mind that, in an era of globalisation, the decisions taken at the WTO meetings have greater bearings on national economies and also well being of the people of Southern and Eastern Africa as well as other member countries of the global trade body.
This regional seminar was part of a work programme titled Fostering Equity and Accountability in the Trading System (FEATS) undertaken by CUTS- Africa Resource Centre. The objective of the project is to enhance the capacity of the civil society representatives from Eastern and Southern African countries to understand the issues and developments taking place in the international trading system so that they could intervene in their respective economic systems. The project is being implemented with the support of HIVOS, Harare.
The specific purpose of the seminar was to make an assessment of the Doha work programme and also devise strategies for future research and advocacy, especially for the non-state actors of the southern and eastern African countries. It brought together 40 trade policy experts belonging to government & inter-governmental agencies, civil society and business organisations hailing from six countries in the region viz. Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The seminar concluded with the adoption of separate sets of recommendations for research and advocacy work in certain critical areas identified by the delegates. It was suggested that the capacity building exercise provided by the multilateral and the regional organisations should be a targeted exercise so that the policy makers, negotiators, industry and the civil society representatives should be adequately equipped to participate meaningfully in the various parleys taking place at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). There was a specific suggestion to strengthen accountability in the whole process of trade policy making and the country representatives should be held accountable for decisions they take during international negotiations that affect the people.
In order to enhance the analytical capacity of the countries in the region to effectively perform at the WTO negotiations, it was suggested that further research must be conducted in areas such as:
The role of advocacy has been underlined in the context of bringing trade and economic development issues into the mainstream of the policy debate at national, regional and international forums. At the national level, the advocacy efforts should be targeted to policy makers, particularly Members of Parliament for increasing awareness on the WTO processes. Regarding WTO processes, the general assessment of the meeting was that the positions of poor countries have been weak in the past, because they were divided and ill prepared for the talks. Therefore, it is for correcting the past for by initiating pro-active policies by the government and civil society groups.
- supply side constraints hindering trade of poor countries
- national and regional capacity to implement WTO Agreements
- need assessment for capacity building for stake holders; and
- market access issues for agriculture such as tariff reduction, subsidy and income support schemes