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New Zealand Trade Minister visits Africa

Hon Tim Groser

New Zealand Trade Minister visits Africa

“Making sure the World Trade Organisation’s rules and commitments work for the benefit of all developing countries will be one of the key challenges for the next Director-General” says Trade Minister Tim Groser at the end of a visit to Africa.

Minister Groser was speaking at the conclusion of a five-day visit to Africa which has included meetings with Ministers and officials to discuss his candidature for Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). During his visits he took the opportunity to discuss a full range of trade issues with counterparts.

“Recently in Geneva I spent a lot of time talking to African colleagues at the WTO about the challenges they face in accessing the benefits of the multilateral trading system. My visit to Africa this week, including my very recent discussions with Ministers and officials in Morocco and Nigeria over the last few days, has further highlighted to me the fundamental importance of Africa to the global economy and the importance of better understanding the needs and interests of African countries.”

“The African group makes up over a quarter of the WTO membership and the region is of increasing significance to New Zealand” says Mr Groser.

“My visit provided an opportunity to discuss New Zealand’s trade and economic relationship with my counterparts, listen to African perspectives on the challenges they face in the multilateral trading system, and discuss their views on how to advance their economic growth prospects.”

"It is clear to me that Africa needs the WTO to continue to set and enforce terms of trade that will enable it to take advantage of growth opportunities through trade - with each other and with the rest of the world"

“I had some constructive discussions on how WTO mechanisms might be further leveraged to assist developing and least-developed countries to take full advantage of the benefits of the multilateral trading system. It would also be crucial for the WTO Director General to work closely with the incoming Secretary General of UNCTAD on these and other issues of concerns to Africa.”

“To enable WTO members to compete on equal terms, it is important to ensure that there is adequate flexibility for developing and least-developing countries in implementing their obligations under WTO Agreements, while upholding the WTO’s careful balance of rights and obligation.”

“I have great sympathy for the concerns raised about the high demands placed on least developed countries (LDC) in accession to the WTO and was pleased to see that the adoption of revised LDC Accessions Guidelines in 2012 has sought to redress this. But more needs to be done to ensure that LDCs can effectively derive benefits from the WTO system. As Director General I would be committed to playing an active role to encourage progress on the catalogue of LDC priority issues that demand on-going attention. As the first Chair of the WTO Sub-Committee on Cotton, I am very aware of how trade distortive policies in areas of key importance to LDCs impact on their potential and on-going engagement is needed by the wider membership to address these and other key issues.”

“This year is vital for the WTO which will be meeting at Ministerial level in Bali in December. How the concerns of developing countries, including African members, can be addressed will be important for whether the WTO’s agenda can be moved forward” says Mr Groser.

"It is clear to me that the "Aid for Trade" initiative, launched by WTO Ministers in 2005 will continue to be a major preoccupation for the incoming Director General, building on the outcomes of this year’s 4th Global Review of Aid for Trade and looking ahead to Bali and beyond. The initiative has made a strong start over the past few years and is starting to demonstrate promising and tangible benefits, but we are nowhere near its culmination. There remain important issues around ensuring the on-going availability and effectiveness of much of this assistance".

“My discussions have confirmed that despite the challenges, many African economies remain extremely dynamic engines for growth with huge potential to benefit from trade rules that address their interests and comparative advantage in a range of areas, including agriculture. I am convinced that the WTO can further enhance Africa’s potential to promote sustainable economic development in the decades ahead.”


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