Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Hon Kobina Tahir Hammond, is calling for an enhanced capacity for developing countries to enable them participate effectively in WTO negotiations and thereby benefit from the Multilateral Trading System. The Minister also wants the restoration of a fully functional two-tier dispute settlement mechanism i.e. Panels and the Appellate Body to give the multilateral trading system (MTS) the needed predictability and certainty.
Additionally, he is pressing for improving the transparency of governments’ trade measures, especially as it pertains to export prohibitions and restrictions as witnessed during the height of the COVID crisis. As part of the measures to reform the Organisation, the Minister is again advocating positively reviewing the “special and differential” treatment for developing countries and ensuring that existing flexibilities in the Agreement on Agriculture, especially those pertaining to Article 6.2, are fully preserved to help confront the challenges of food insecurity and, reinvigorating the WTO’s negotiating function.
The above raft of measures are the proposals the Minister is making as the Organisation prepares to hold its Thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi in February, 2024.
Hon K.T Hammond made the proposals when he met with the Director-General of the WTO, H.E. Dr. Ngozi Okonja-Iweala, on the occasion of her working visit to Ghana as part of her maiden African tour which includes countries like Cote d’ Ivoire, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Thanking the Director General for choosing Ghana as her first point of call on her African tour, the Minister noted that the decision reinforces Ghana’s credentials as the centre of African Commercial Diplomacy, in view of Ghana’s hosting of the Secretariat of AfCFTA. He congratulated her for being the first African, and the first woman, to assume the position.
He applauded Dr. Ngozi for the positive signal that her occupation of the role of Director General of the WTO conveys to the many young women and girls of Africa. Recalling the support that Ghana, then as Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, offered for her to assume her current role, he encouraged her to continue being a role model for Africa and was hopeful that her tenure will be successful in view of her quest to reform the WTO.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), he called for support from the WTO for its implementation through the WTO’s “Aid-for-Trade” initiative and the effective implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). He specifically called for additional flows of Aid for Trade from bilateral, regional and multilateral donors to support re-quests for trade-related capacity building from beneficiary countries, He also encouraged the mainstreaming of trade into national development strategies by partner countries; and support for improved ways of monitoring and evaluating the initiative with a view to seeking enhanced implementation.
On her part, the Director General, H.E. Dr. Ngozi Okonja-Iweala, expressed confidence that the issues raised by the Minister will be dealt with earnestly, disclosing that the lack of judges at the WTO is a major bottleneck to dispute settlement.
The Director General also announced that the WTO has waived the patent on COVID-19 vaccines for the next five years to enable African countries to produce their own COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Okonja-Iweala used the opportunity to urge entrepreneurs to take advantage of the prevailing good environment for e-commerce and digital trading, as Ghana is far advanced of its peers on the continent in that space.
She appealed to the Government and particularly the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to take urgent steps to ratify the new regulations on fisheries trade for member countries, noting that doing so will go a long way to benefit the larger population that depend on the fishing industry for their livelihoods.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established in January 1995 as an Intergovernmental Organisation to regulate international trade with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It has a membership of 164 countries.