March 12, 2004

Trade policy committee launched

A committee tasked to negotiate the country's trade policy was officially launched at BEDIA offices. Officially dubbed the National Committee on Trade and Policy Negotiation, the committee will become the country's think tank in the future and advise Cabinet on policy formulations pertaining to bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations and policy positions adopted, such as those relating to SACU, SADC, AGOA, WTO and other regional formations. The Minister of Trade and Industry, Joseph Nkate told the gathering that Botswana was currently involved in several trade negotiations around the world because the small local market renders a lot of business opportunities unsustainable. Therefore, in order to diversify the economy, Botswana has to look outward through an export-orientated industry in order to diversify the economy. He said the demise of the Kalahari Soap Industries (KSI) demonstrated the short-comings of an inward looking strategy." The limited and small market progressively militated against the company's sustainability "unless we export".

While Botswana has become a part of various trade protocols, Nkate expressed frustration that Botswana's private sector continuously fails to take advantage of them. He said many in the private sector claim ignorance of these trade regimes. He said the country still a lacks a vibrant and proactive private sector, situation that frustrates government efforts that position the sector as the leading engine of economic growth and economic diversification. According to him, the National Committee on Trade and Policy Negotiation was a platform provided by government to facilitate meaningful dialogue and appreciate the desirability of a critique and expression of divergent view in good faith without rubbishing those who hold different opinions. He said they put a lot of emphasis on private sector participation in the forum, as it was the sector, which influenced the talk in other countries. He regretted that this was not yet the case in Botswana. Nkate intimated that Botswana still lacked behind other countries in institutionalising expertise for negotiating trade regimes especially those under the WTO, with international trade having expanded tremendously to include issues of the environment, labour conditions, services, which many perceive as disadvantaging developing countries to the benefit of the developed world. (Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone)

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