WTO boss Roberto Azevedo urges states to exploit Nairobi meeting success

The Nairobi package made a decision on export competition that was truly historic.

Friday January 22 2016

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo. AFP PHOTO | FABRICE COFFRINI 

By JAMES KARIUKI
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World Trade Organisation Director-General Roberto Azevedo has described last December's ministerial conference in Nairobi as a memorable gathering where significant results were achieved.

Mr Azevedo said the meeting delivered some of the biggest reforms in global trade policy ever realised in the past 20 years by the 162-member organisation.

Speaking at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, the WTO boss urged governments to capitalise on the progress in future negotiations that will enable governments and businesses to trade more.

“The Nairobi package made a decision on export competition that was truly historic. It is the most important reform in international trade rules on agriculture since the creation of the WTO where we eliminated agricultural export subsidies.

“This has significantly improved the global trading environment, especially in developing countries who suffered enormous trade-distorting potential from the subsidies.

"In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago. So this decision corrected an historic imbalance,” he said.

He said a level playing field in agricultural markets had been created, with direct benefits to farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

Mr Azevedo said the move would also correct anomalies where export credits and state trading enterprises wrongly benefitted from the subsidies-driven export trade.

“The smaller and the poorer the country, the more likely it is to need trade as a means to attract investments and to boost economic and social development. We simply cannot lose sight of this reality,” he said.

TRANSPARENCY

The Nairobi meeting, said the WTO boss, also resolved to find a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security purposes where a Special Safeguard Mechanism will be developed.

The ministerial conference also saw the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, eliminating tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade and thereby enabling growth and development around the world.

“This success is all the more significant because it comes so soon after our successful conference in Bali that delivered a number of important outcomes, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement,” he said.

The move by WTO members in Nairobi will bring a higher level of predictability and transparency to customs processes around the world, making it easier for businesses, especially smaller enterprises, to sell their products on global markets.

The meeting, he said, largely benefitted developing countries by easing tariffs and also increasing global merchandise exports by up to one trillion dollars yearly and to create 20 million jobs around the world.

“The WTO’s 162 members monitor each other’s practices and regulations against those rules in order to improve transparency and avoid protectionism. And when conflicts arise, we have built one of the most effective dispute settlement systems in the world to resolve them,” he said.