|November 23, 2005
African MPs demand market protection at WTO meeting
A group of eastern and southern African parliamentarians to attend a round-table meeting in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha will call on African ministers to protect local markets during the upcoming WTO meeting to be held in Hong Kong next month.
The round-table meeting is organized by the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) and Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD). In a statement issued here ahead of the round-table meeting, the African lawmakers called on ministers to keep development livelihoods and employment high on the agenda during the meeting in Hong Kong.
"As African parliamentarians, we are calling upon our ministers that Africa should not be forced to cut our tariffs on agriculture until the United States and European Union (EU) have substantially eliminated their trade distorting supports which are still in place," said Sheila Kawamara, member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
"The African ministers should remain firm. They are representing the majority of the world's poor and the livelihoods of people are at stake. Our agricultural sector is being threatened by the United States and EU," said Kawamara. "These countries are hood-winking us into a policy that is going to further destroy the livelihoods of our farmers in Africa. The dumping will flood our African markets and cause rural unemployment, instability and inevitably, conflict," she said.
Kawamara said Africa's priority is to build the capacity of local suppliers. "African ministers must maintain our stand and insist on retaining the flexibilities in the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The lawmakers said the rich countries are coming to Hong Kong with packages of aid to persuade African ministers to agree to an agenda that will allow foreign companies to take over our agricultural, services and industrial markets. "We call upon African Union ministers to maintain a high level of unity and solidarity before and during the Hong Kong ministerial in order to safeguard the interests of the majority of poor people in Africa," said Sisa Njikelana, lawmaker from South Africa.
The lawmakers said the African ministers must ensure that local industries are given ample protection to develop the industrial sector to a level where they are more competitive on the world market. "We do not want aid for trade; we want aid for production, to boost our local supply capacities. But if the donors are genuine, they will not be mixing this agenda up with the WTO agenda in HongKong. By handing out aid on the one hand, and making liberalization demands on the other, aid becomes a tool of coercion," said Kawamara.
African ministers walked out of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico in 2003, stalling the global trade talks despite individual plans to resuscitate the talks.