LIBERALISATION of global trade and opening up agricultural markets for African produce tops the agenda for Kenya and Africa at the World Trade Organisation 10th Ministerial Conference that opens tomorrow in Nairobi.
Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed said yesterday key issues will be to review the package for the Least Developed Countries, largely focused on reducing high tariffs that make trade in agriculture expensive.
According to the CS, the country will be leading the African continent in negotiating for better international tariffs, removal of trade barriers and new multinational trade systems to create markets for Africa.
he ministerial conference, held after every two years, is WTO’s top decision making organ.
Addressing journalists in Nairobi ahead of the four-day conference, Mohamed who will chair the conference, said a successful outcome of the MC10 Nairobi 2015 should nclude a work programme that is realistic, balanced and that also modernises the WTO negotiating agenda.
She said distortions in agricultural trade, caused by high tariffs and other barriers, export subsidies in developed countries and domestic support have been on the WTO agenda for long.
“It is time to mordernise the WTO by putting in place proper multilateral systems that will facilitate trade and address barriers. We cannot afford to lose this great opportunity,” Mohamed said. “We are excited it is taking part in Africa for the first time.”
Agriculture remains one of the most highly protected areas of international trade.
According to existing agriculture trade negotiations at WTO, tariffs average around four per cent for industrial goods but 62 per cent for agricultural products.
Governments, particularly in rich countries, continue to subsidise domestic farmers favouring domestic production and exports over imports from abroad, Mohamed noted.
The Nairobi conference will also see two new members join the WTO – Liberia and Afghanistan. Mohamed said Kenya is also looking to capitalise on the Trade Facilitation Agreement reached at the ninth WTO ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in 2013, that was ratified by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.
Kenya became the sixth African country to ratify the deal, which seeks to ease clearance and flow of goods including transit cargo.
The Nairobi conference is expected to attract at least 5,000 delegates from 163 WTO member states. It will discuss the Doha Development Agenda, agriculture, market access services among other trade issues, with a view to leveraging trade between the LDCs and the developed countries.