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02.06.2004 Business & Finance

Africa Finance Ministers asked to speak with one voice

By GNA

Accra, June 2, GNA - The 37th Session of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference has identified the need for Africa to speak with one voice during multilateral negotiations if the Continent were to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Ministers of Finance, Planning and Development in Africa should, therefore, promote intra-African trade and harmonise domestic policies with much emphasis on mainstreaming trade among other things, a statement they issued at the end of their Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, said.

A release from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning made available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday said the conference was under the theme: "Mainstreaming Trade Policy in National Development Strategies."

The Conference observed that the African continent compared to other regions like Asia had not reaped the desired gains in global trade. Africa's share in world merchandise exports fell from 6.3 per cent in 1980 to 2.5 per cent in 2000 and its share of manufactured exports in world trade remained stagnant at 0.8 per cent.

"Thus the successful completion of the Doha Development Round is of critical importance to improve the continents trade benefits. In this regard, the discussions in Geneva after the Cancun fiasco, is a positive indication of restoring the momentum for negotiations whereby meaningful framework in agriculture, non-agricultural market access and other relevant areas will be adopted.

The statement said the cotton sector was a key contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP); export earnings and employment in several African countries and, therefore, called for the resolution of issues relating to cotton in the multilateral trading system.

It said tariff escalation and tariff peaks on manufactured imports from developing countries, with some as high as 900 per cent had adversely affected the efforts of Africa to diversify their economies towards manufacturing exports and therefore, recommended that the developed countries took the necessary measures to correct the anomaly as soon as possible.

To ensure better outcome of the trade negotiations, there was the need to strengthen capacities in the trade sector, especially in the area of negotiations and analytical skills and in this regard, the establishment of the African Trade Policy Centre in Geneva by the ECA was recommended.

It was agreed that African countries should adopt dynamic trade policies aimed at eliminating bottlenecks to complement the multilateral trade negotiations efforts. These policies should include trade financing, trade facilitation, access to information and empowerment of the private sector.

It said mainstreaming trade was a multi-sectoral issue and, therefore, required co-ordination and coherence as well as mutually reinforcing policies.

The Ministers were, therefore, to ensure the necessary co-ordination of policies to facilitate the attainment of the poverty reduction objective.

The statement noted that accelerated regional integration was a priority and should be reflected in the development agenda. In this respect, the ECA/AU roadmap to rationalise regional integration was a step in the right direction in making regional integration more effective.

It said increased aid and improved aid effectiveness was vital for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Similarly, efforts should be made by Africa to influence international decisions on debt. The Conference endorsed the re-establishment of the UN Trust Fund for Africa and member countries were urged to contribute generously into the fund to help the ECA play its role effectively.

The statement acknowledged the contribution of the Africa's Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in Africa's development process and the Ministers resolved that in the interest of Africa's access to the US market, the US Congress and Senate should extend AGOA's validity, which expires in September 2004 as a matter of necessity.

The Finance, Planning and Development Ministers further directed ECA to communicate its resolution to the US Congress and Senate and all African embassies in Washington to urge President G.W. Bush to push for the further extension of AGOA.

Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda opened the Ministerial Conference, which was chaired by Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Ghana Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in his capacity as the out-going Deputy Chairman of the Conference. He stood in for Mr Trevor Manuel, Minister of Finance of South Africa and the Outgoing Chairman, who was unable to attend the meeting.

The conference was organised in the form of presentations by experts including Professor Ademola Oyejide, a renowned Professor in Trade and Regional Integration; Ms Rosa Whitaker, former Assistant US Trade Representative; Dr Kipkorir Aly Rana, Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

There were general discussions and exchange of views and experiences on best practices in addressing the challenge of expanding trade and mainstreaming trade into national development strategies. A representative from the Secretariat of the UK Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair's new initiative, "Commission for Africa" in collaboration with ECA also threw more light on the initiative.

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