24.05.2004 Business & Finance

Put Doha Development Round talks on track - Osafo Maafo

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From Gideon Sackitey, GNA Special Correspondent Kampala

Kampala, May 24, GNA - The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo has called for the resurrection of the Doha Development Round Talks stressing that it would rake in as much as 500 billion dollars annually into the economies of developing economies. Speaking at the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economics in Kampala, Uganda, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo said most estimates indicated that benefits accruing could be 10 times the additional resource requirements for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Conference which is under the theme: "Mainstreaming Trade in National Development Strategies" is coming ahead of the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group Meetings scheduled for next week in Kampala.

He said the meeting was timely and significant since it was taking place just after the Cancun fiasco and the enlargement of the European Union, Africa's major trading bloc starting this month.

The Conference was opened by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and had in attendance Mr Kingsley Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) and the representative of the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry.

Mr Osafo Maafo said from Geneva and Paris, there were new signs of renewed momentum in the Doha Development Rounds of Multilateral Trade Negotiations at the same time when African countries were making serious efforts at enhancing the status of governance with Ghana as the first country to undergo the Africa Peer Review Mechanism.

"These renewed efforts are critically important for accelerating progress towards poverty reduction and meeting the MDGs in Africa. It is our responsibility to ensure that they become mutually reinforcing as it would assist us in exploring the dual challenges facing African countries as we seek to level the playing field in the global trading system."

This, he noted, would be done while simultaneously addressing national supply side constraints that would prohibit the taking of advantage of improved trade opportunities by African states.

Mr Osafo Maafo, who is the out-going Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, said trade distorting agricultural subsidies and proportional tariff protection on agricultural products were particularly detrimental to economic development in Africa, adding that OECD countries spent as much as 315 billion dollars annually, representing 47 per cent of the value of their agric production on subsidies to their farmers.

He said in manufacturing for instance, tariff peaks and tariff escalation applied a disproportionate burden on developing countries and did particular harm to efforts at diversifying national economies.

Mr Osafo Maafo explained that last year, Mongolia and Norway both paid 23 million dollars in tariffs on exports to the US, yet the total value of exported goods from Norway amounted to five billion dollars compared to a mere 143 million dollars for exports from Mongolia. "Mongolians, therefore, pay 16 cents to sell one dollar worth of sweaters and suits while Norwegians paid half a cent to sell a dollar worth of gourmet smoked salmon and North Sea crude oil.

"In the case of cocoa, raw cocoa attracts zero tariffs in Europe, nine per cent for semi processed cocoa products and 21 per cent for finished products," Mr Osafo Maafo said.

He noted that the statistics were an indication that African economies could not talk about productive global partnerships for development without seeing significant and rapid progress in market access for products from developing countries to the OECD countries. Mr Osafo Maafo thus urged the ECA, as a research institution, to look at the ochratoxin and aflatoxin in their various products, to help African economies address this fairly and transparently.

He expressed regret that it was only Africa that had grown poorer in the last 25 years with only four countries on track to meet the MDGs in 2015.

"In fact if substantial progress is not made, Africa as a whole will only survive the universal education targets in 2029, twenty nine years from now and halving poverty in another 100 years. 24 May 04

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