Minister urges developing countries to support WTO
The Minister of Trade and Industry, K.T. Hammond, has called for enhanced capacity for Ghana and other developing countries, to enable them participate effectively in World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, and improve benefit from international trade. According to the minister, due to capacity deficit, Ghana and other developing countries were unable to engage in effective negotiations on international trade agreements, thus, inhibiting them from gaining associated benefits.
To this end, Mr Hammond reiterated the need for additional aid for trade from bilateral, regional and multilateral donors, to support trade-related capacity building from beneficiary countries.
The minister was speaking in Accra, yesterday, when the Director-General of WTO, Dr Ngozi Nkonjo-Iweala, visited Ghana, as part of a three-nation tour of Africa.
Mr Hammond noted that building the capacity of Ghana and developing countries in the area of agreement negotiations was one of the reforms needed to be undertaken by the WTO to serve its purpose.
He urged for the restoration of a fully functional two-tier dispute settlement mechanism at the WTO, which included the panels and the appellate bodies, to give the international trading system the needed predictability and certainty.
Additionally, the minister asked for improvement in the transparency of governments’ trade measures, especially, on export prohibitions and restrictions as witnessed during the height of the COVID crisis.
Mr Hammond also called for “special treatment” for developing countries and ensuring that existing flexibilities in agreement on agriculture, were preserved to help confront the challenges of food insecurity and reinvigorate the WTO’s negotiating function.
He said, Ghana would table a proposal for reforms of the WTO at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), in Abu Dhabi, in February 2024.
Acknowledging the Director-General for choosing Ghana as her first point of call on her African tour, the minister noted that the decision reinforced Ghana’s credentials as the centre of African commercial diplomacy, and congratulated her for being the first African and woman to assume the position.
The minister encouraged Dr Nkonjo-Iweala to continue being a role model for Africa, adding that Ghana was ready to support efforts to reform the WTO.
Mr Hammond also urged for the mainstreaming of trade into national development strategies by partner countries; and support for improved ways of monitoring and evaluating the initiative with a view to seeking enhanced implementation.
Dr Okonja-Iweala called on Ghana to ratify the agreement on fisheries subsidies by June, this year.
As one of the key stakeholders in the advancement of Africa’s development, she said, it was critical that Ghana urgently ratify the agreement to encourage other African nations to follow suit.
Dr Okonja Iweala noted that, Ghana could benefit from a US$20 million fund, established to support countries that implement obligations under the agreement.
So far, the Director-General said that, Seychelles, Singapore, Switzerland and United States of America (USA) have ratified the agreement and asked all member countries to do same by February next year.
Currently, she said the WTO had been able to negotiate a five-year waiver on the patent of COVID vaccines, to enable African countries manufacture vaccines to meet its demand, saying that technology on vaccines was expected to propel the continent’s pharmaceutical industry to growth.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS