With the effort of Nigeria and other developing countries in holding off larger developed nations from initiating allegedly inequitable global trade policies through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) yielding dividend last week, Nigerian trade negotiators have stressed that they would not endorse any trade agreement that is not transparent and pro-development.
WTO Director General, Roberto Azevêdo, recently announced that governments had failed to reach agreement on a ‘Bali package’ in advance of the upcoming Ministerial, set for December 3-6; much to the satisfaction of less privileged countries.
The developing nations consider the Bali Package as serving only the interest of richer countries to the detriment of poorer nations.
In the months leading up to the Bali conference, WTO members had set their sights on finalising a three-pronged package of deliverables, pulled from the broader Doha Round negotiations, now referred to as the ‘Bali Package’.
The planned centre-piece has been an agreement on trade facilitation, which aims to ease customs procedures in order to expedite trade flows. Members have also sought the adoption of a set of proposals relating to agriculture, along with some development-related components – including proposals focusing on the needs of least developed countries.
THISDAY gathered that negotiators from Nigeria would focus their time in Bali on making permanent changes to WTO rules to allow developing countries to pursue food security.
A source within the Nigerian negotiation team noted that the WTO has failed in its 18 years to deliver on its promises and commitments to development, and the failure to remove obstacles to food security even further erodes the credibility of the WTO.
THISDAY learnt that a deal on trade facilitation would have bound developing countries to the customs and port-of-entry policies and procedures that rich countries have implemented over many decades to their own advantage, imposing excessive regulatory, human resources, and technological burdens on developing countries.
“At the same time, developed countries have been unwilling to commit to providing resources for poor countries to modernise their facilities, meaning that they would have to prioritise computerising their customs offices over their schools, and improving infrastructure at ports rather than at hospitals. The US and its allies have tried to spin this deal as a “win-win” for developing countries, but they saw through that farce and didn’t give in to US bullying.”
President of the National Association of Nigeria Traders (NANTS), Mr. Ken Ukaoha, who also spoke on the issue, urged WTO members to continue negotiations towards addressing historical imbalances and existing unfair and damaging rules in the WTO through the other aspects of the ‘Bali package’.
“Agriculture and some policy changes to benefit Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Unbelievably, existing WTO rules allow developed countries to massively subsidise their agriculture (to the tens or hundreds of billions annually), while only 17 developing countries are allowed to subsidise over a minimal amount.
“As poor farmers make up a large percentage of the “bottom billion,” removing this limit to food security in the WTO is the most sensible way the international community can reduce hunger, poverty, and inequality. In the last year, India has courageously led a coalition including dozens of other developing countries, demanding that WTO rules change to allow them to subsidise farmers producing food for domestic consumption, so that they can implement a national Food Security law, and reach the Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger,” he said.