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The WTO Nairobi Historic Package and its Implication for African Countries

The Historic Nairobi Package

Recently we had the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi. Information that emanated from the forum pointed at what has since been termed the “historic” Nairobi package for Africa and the world. It was further argued that the Nairobi Package pays fitting tribute to the Conference host, Kenya, by delivering commitments that will benefit in particular the organization’s poorest members. The Nairobi Package contained a series of six Ministerial Decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries. These include a commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, which Director-General Roberto Azevêdo hailed as the “most significant outcome on agriculture” in the organization’s 20-year history. During the sessions, the Chair of the Nairobi talks and Kenya’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary, Ms. Amina Mohammed appeared excited. She claimed that delegates faced challenging moments in concluding the Nairobi talks, which required an extra day of intensive negotiations to conclude. According to her, tough calls had to be made but the delegates did ‘bite the bullet.’ She argued that delegates reaffirmed the central role of WTO in international trade governance.

Just how deep was the Bullet Bite?

According to Amina and other delegates the Nairobi talks led to a ‘historic package,’ the delegates did bite the bullet. But how deep what the bullet bite? I am sure I do not know. WTO has never been fair. I doubt it will ever be. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe not in this generation...  The ‘owners’ of WTO will still go round whatever agreements, and treaties. They have the power and the will to do it; they will do it. I do not doubt both their ability and will. They have done it before; they can do it again. The end is actually not sweetened words and language but commitment to implementing agreements. What is the assurance of the implementation, to tye letter, of the ‘Nairobi package?’ I am not sure I know. When the poor world goes to sleep, the rich world will be at work. They will remove subsides and introduce them on the back door. If they do not reintroduce them from behind, they will come up with an equivalent. Trade might never be balanced because humans and nations are not, at least, as at now. If it were, Africa could be far, I guess. But unfortunately not everybody wants Africa to go that far; not even Africans themselves. And so how far deep was this bullet bite in Nairobi? I am not sure I know.

What is the World in WTO?

The WTO, just like many other world programmes and institutions was not created for Africa. Africa was not part of the world then; I doubt it is even now. Perhaps we need to redefine the world. I guess, that may do Africa better. We need a new conception of what it is the world; an understanding of the world such that when we talk about the World in things like WTO, Africa is inclusive. That way negotiations would be easy, implementations of treaties and agreements would be easy too. As it stands, the world still does not necessarily include Africa. We are at peace when we accept reality, at least I am, for I know competing with reality will only lead to a broken back.  

Unfair to Africa

When the US and allies were busy crafting the Briton Woods institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the world was busy forming the UN and other world institutions, African countries were busy fighting colonialism. The GATT was to mutate into the current WTO. Clearly Africa was never consulted leave alone represented in the formation of these institutions. In their nature institutions like the WTO are exploitative, by design they are structured to inherently undermine poor countries, most of which are in Africa. If we are to move into a better world, the international community of nations must allow for what I will call “genuine” negotiations and readjustment on how the machinery of institutions like WTO operates. That is the least that Africa should bargain for. This is not a favour, in my view, Africa is only asking for fair terms so that the sons and daughters of the world, regardless of the countries they happen to come from, may trade on a balanced ground. 

The WTO Nairobi Historic Package and its Implication for African Countries The WTO Nairobi Historic Package and its Implication for African Countries Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on January 20, 2016 Rating: 5

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