The African Union Commission in collaboration with the Government of South Africa organized a Special Meeting of African Union Ministers of Trade, on 18 September 2017 in Addis Ababa. The main purpose of the Informal Meeting was to enable Africa to discuss and formulate common positions on current issues of offensive and defensive interest as well as new issues before the 3rd Mini-Ministerial World Trade Organization (WTO) Meeting on 9-10 October 2017 in Marrakech, Morocco and the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO (WTO-MC11). The Meeting also reflected on the overall strategy that Africa should adopt in the WTO multilateral trading system in order to achieve its structural transformation in the context of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
The meeting was attended by Ministers of Trade, Senior Trade Officials, and Delegates from nearly forty African Union Member States, members of the African Group of Ambassadors to the WTO, representatives of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and experts from the African union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and South Centre. H.E. Mrs. Susana Malcorra, the Argentinian Former Foreign Minister and Chair of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference also attended the Meeting.
In his introductory remarks, Amb. Albert M. Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, expressed his gratitude to the Government of the Republic of South Africa for co-sponsoring the special meeting as well as the African Group of Ambassadors to the WTO and senior officials for the excellent work undertaken in preparation for the meeting.
In addition, Commissioner Muchanga raised the longstanding issue of the AU's observer status in the WTO and invited Member States reflect on how to resolve the matter in the not-too-distant future. Also, Amb. Muchanga stressed the dire need for Africa to work under the principle of speaking with one voice and acting in unison. "We must emerge from this meeting with a strong reaffirmation of that principle" and "should all commit to speaking with one voice during the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in Argentina," he emphasized. Before he concluded, Commissioner Muchanga urged African Union Ministers of Trade to use their collective strength in numbers at the WTO to become key interlocutors in the upcoming negotiations, while safeguarding their collective interests in the negotiations.
Addressing, the Honourable Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa and Chair of the Informal Meeting stated that the Meeting provided an opportunity for AU Ministers of Trade to reflect on the issues and challenges that they will be presented with in Argentina. He underscored that the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference will be a follow-up to MC10 where Africa was able to get an outcome on export competition/subsidies on agriculture, which have continuously been a detriment to Africa's development and industrialization.
"There are a number of subjects under consideration in the WTO, such as domestic support but with different principles than those agreed under the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). We also have new issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and transparency, which entail new rules. We need MC11 to reaffirm multileralism in our rules making," Minister Davies concluded.
H.E. Mrs. Susana Malcorra, the former Argentinian Foreign Minister and Chair of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference thanked Commissioner Muchanga for being invited to the Africa's preparatory Meeting prior to the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference. According to the Minister, the 11th WTO will come up with a fair system that will be on Africa's side in terms of development. "I hope the voice of Africa will be united. And my plea to you is to prioritize the most important issues at stake in order to move forward Africa's agenda", she said.
It is anticipated that the Report of the Meeting and its annex (Draft Declaration on WTO issues), will be considered and endorsed by a formal meeting of the AU Ministers of Trade prior to the WTO-MC11.