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Africans face starvation due difficulty in negotiation at WTO

By Standard Reporter | December 22nd 2015

NAIROBI, KENYA: The first WTO Ministerial Conference has been taking place in Kenya for the past few days. The conference in Nairobi, a first in Africa since one under the WTO’s forerunner the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was held in Morocco in 1994, had raised expectations that trade issues critical to Africa’s development, such as the removal of subsidies on agricultural exports by European countries, would take the centre stage.

But preparatory meetings in Geneva have ended up with three issues to be discussed at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference (WC10) after members failed to close ranks on contentious issues that would have helped Africa trade more with the developed world. African states had put the issue of subsidies as one of the key items to be discussed at the summit amongst other burning issues.

Many people now face the risk of starvation in Africa as the region continues to face difficulty in negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on reforming global trade in agriculture. But three years after they began, the talks are effectively at an impasse, with developed countries still bitterly divided over subsidies and protectionism. African demands for "pro-poor" agreements to improve market access, strengthen food security, attract rural investment and protect domestic markets from unfair competition, meanwhile, remain unsteady.

The turn of events has however seen India blocking the African agenda on export subsidies at the World Trade Organisation summit. India’s position threatens to destroy Africa’s agricultural sector and to invalidate the recently held India/Africa summit, which was hailed as bringing the two continents closer than ever economically.

By last evening, #IndiaBlocksAfricaAgenda was trending on social media calling for a boycott of Indian products to Africa.

India is Africa’s fourth-largest trading partner, after China, the U.S. and the European Union. Over the past decade, the two-way trade between India and Africa has witnessed a massive surge from $25 billion in 2006 to the current level of over $70 billion. India currently has oil investments in Mozambique, South Sudan, Egypt and Libya, and is also the biggest importer of crude oil from Nigeria.

Developed nations protect their markets from massive inflows of subsidized produce from the developed world which would kill their local sectors.

They also engage in capacity enhancing subsidies to fishing fleets insofar as these affect the sustainability of fish stocks, undermine development, and threaten food security

Amongst other issues being discussed at the conference, areas of interest to Africa include financial and technical support for least developed countries (LDCs), agriculture, fisheries, trade in services as well as trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (Trips).

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