Zambia’s appointment to coordinate trade negotiations for 54 LDCs at WTO

Zambia’s selection to coordinate trade negotiations for 54 Least Developing Countries (LDCs) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is great news for the country as it presents a number of development opportunities such as increase in investment as well as trade.

This development should be taken seriously by Zambia as it is also a huge responsibility given that she is also a chair for the Eastern and Southern Africa ESA group negotiating a reciprocal type of trade with the European Union (EU) called the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs).

Zambia should not be seen to fail but immediately start organising the LDCs to strategise for the next Doha Development Agenda (DDA) meeting and be able to take concrete and developmental issues at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as LDCs. This is important and Zambia should ensure that there is an LDC’s strategy before the next WTO meeting is convened.

Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS)-International would also like to commend the government on their exemplary leadership as ESA chair. (CUTS)-International feels the leadership that the country has exhibited has been exemplary. The recent comments in the media by the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry (MCTI), Dr Bulleti Nsemukila that, the EPA negotiations were beyond market access-but development and regional integration shows governments commitment in achieving a developmental EPA. The statement shows the willingness by Zambia to sign an agreement that will benefit both parties (and the entire ESA bloc).

Talking about deepening regional integration. This is an area were the negotiations has failed miserably. No-one can say that the EPA process has deepened or strengthened the regional integration process. The negotiations started off badly, with members of the regional organizations feeling pressurized to choose which grouping to negotiate an EPA with, which caused serious tensions in the region and, consequently, had detrimental effects on the integration process and a slowing down of the process. EPAs have capitalised on this situation and the current state of play does not favour regional integration and Africa as a whole.

Individual ratification has ensued and this has enormous implication to the integration agenda. The signing of four countries Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Seychelles and Madagascar out 15 countries in the ESA region last year in Mauritius are some of the good examples of disintegration being fostered and natured by the EPA.

However, with the current stance and leadership being exhibited by Zambia as ESA chair, CUTS-International is confident that Zambia will coordinate the 54 LDCs prudently. CUTS-International agrees with the minister of commerce trade and industry that the new position would give the country a global presence that would attract investment as people will begin to notice this country.

CUTS feels that vigorous and sustained economic growth, fuelled by investment and entrepreneurship, is needed for the private sector to create more jobs and increase incomes of the poor. In turn, this will generate the revenues that governments need to expand access to health, education and infrastructure services and so help improve productivity.

Realising the low investments in Zambia with insufficient productivity gains, this opportunity comes at the right moment as the country is restructuring its development plan.

Further, Zambia needs to do much more to address the market failures and structural impediments that are holding back productive investment (both domestic and foreign), and to do it better, for longer periods and in a more strategic way. Zambia and other developing countries can help foster an investment climate that enables the private sector to flourish and fulfil its role as the main engine of growth.

To do so, the country need to pursue macro-economic stability, improve the functioning of market-regulating institutions and strengthen procedures for contract enforcement. Zambia and other LDC governments can also improve the coherence of their policies in a range of areas – such as trade, tax, competition and investment promotion – that affect the volume of investment and its development impact.

On the other hand. As these investments are being pursued, the country should consider a number of safety nets and gain related measures in place. The country should consider how these investments (both current and promising) can or contribution to pro-poor growth (i.e. increase the impact of growth on poverty reduction) by making labour, land and other markets work better for the poor, tackling constraints to women’s entrepreneurship, reducing barriers to formalisation, promoting environmental sustainability, expanding access to knowledge and technology and unleashing the economic potential in rural areas.