Lack of coordination will cost LDCs at WTO meet – CUTS

LACK of coordination and speaking with one voice will cost Least Developed Countries (LDCs’) chances of getting a positive outcome at the World Trade Ministerial meeting next month, says a fair trade advocate.

In an interview ahead of the 9th world trade organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting scheduled for Bali, Indonesia, Consumer Unit and Trust Society (CUTS) International Zambia Coordinator Simon Ng’ona said it was saddening to learn that LDCs had failed to harmonise their position before the meeting.

“In the past, during the run-up to the WTO ministerial conferences, Trade Ministers have met in exclusive meetings to agree on a common position, but regrettably this is not the case this time. In view of this, it is important for organisations working on trade and developmental issues to assist LDCs in articulating what should be priority areas,” Ng’ona said.

“It is important to underscore that even though countries have been frustrated in discussing the Doha Round which so far has produced little results, the importance of LDCs coming up with a common position remains an important non-binding protocol issue which has to be followed.”

He said it was clear from the four issues tabled under the LDC package that two of them had been agreed upon.

“The first of the two is the set of multilateral guidelines for the rules of origin requirement that members apply to their non-reciprocal preference schemes for LDCs. This entails that, for the first time, governments will have a set of multilaterally agreed guidelines which should make it easier for LDC’s exports to qualify for preferential market access both to developed and developing markets,” Ng’ona said. “The the second decision is on the operationalisation of the LDC services waiver that WTO members adopted at the ministerial conference in 2011. Adoption of the waiver will allow members to grant preferential market access to LDC services and suppliers.”

He said the remaining two decisions to be made hinge on Duty Free Quota Free Market Access (DFQMA) and Agriculture proposals.

“Despite the market access preferences being given to most LDCs, it is important to note that key products from LDCs continue to face high tariffs and non tariff barriers,” said Ng’ona. “On agriculture, its proposals still remain a contentious issue in the history of the Doha Round. It is still possible to identify ways to allow developing countries some cushion and flexibility to exceed their domestic support limits when they buy, stock and supply food stocks to ensure food security.”

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