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02.12.2003 Business & Finance

Civil Society advocate trade favourable to developing countries

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Accra, Dec 2, GNA - Developments after the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference could become the foundation for a new type of global trade and economic relations that were more favourable to developing countries, Mr Hormeku, Programme Manager of the African Trade Network (ATN) said in Accra on Tuesday.

He said however, that Civil Society organisations, trade unions, researchers, women groups in trade policy advocacy in Africa who formed the ATN were afraid and worried that African governments were being pressurised to soften the stand they took at the WTO in Cancun in September this year and may give in to the demands of the developed countries.

Mr Tetteh Hormeku, who said this at the opening of the 6th annual conference of Africa Trade Network in Accra described the Cancun meeting as a political victory for Africa but a failure on their part in terms of negotiations.

He said the four-day conference, will deliberate and adopt a common plan of action for the next international trade meeting scheduled to take place in Geneva, in December 15 this year.

He said the conference was taking place at a particular conjunction of global, regional and national trends that would significantly shape the scope and framework for Africa's developmental options and her position in the global economy and economic relations.

Mr. Hormeku said the issue yet to be discussed had to do with agriculture, where the US gave massive subsidy to farmers in the developed countries to the detriment of farmers in the developing countries and also wanted to adopt investment agreement about how foreigners would invest in developing countries.

He expressed dismay that even Ghana, which formally resisted the introduction of a law by the United States and European Union in the WTO because it sought to abolish African government's freedom from choosing where to buy their goods was now being influenced to favour the institution of such a law like the Ghana Procurement Bill which is currently before Parliament.

About 30 participants from 50 African countries have gathered to discuss the implications of the Cancun Ministerial meeting of the WTO and its aftermath, the positions, tactics and political alliances among developing countries in international trade negotiations.

European and American trade and interest in Africa, NEPAD and the challenge of regional integration as well as the challenges for civil society advocacy in post Cancun trade interest and economic development policy environment would also be discussed.

Mr Hormeku said after the Cancun meeting, the US trade representatives threatened that "the US would continue to open markets one way or the other "through bilateral and regional mechanism where developing countries were relatively weaker and more isolated from the strengths of numbers and solidarity than the multilateral arena, such as the WTO may offer.

He said in the case of the EU, it has already gone ahead to launch negotiations for free trade or economic partnership agreements with West and Central Africa which were more far-reaching than what was rejected en-bloc by developing countries in the WTO.

He said given the higher stakes in the post-Cancun situation, it was vital that these organisations assess and strategise about how to consolidate and extend the potential gains while containing and minimising the threats in the WTO as well on the other fronts, particularly the bilateral regional agreements and frameworks such as NEPAD, AGOA, and the EU's Economic partnership agreements.

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