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Malawi cries foul at WTO conference

Malawi added its voice of protest as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) continue to cry foul over trade imbalances being experienced with the dominance imposed by developed countries.

Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamveka made Malawi’s position known on Thursday, December 17, when he addressed that 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya.

“I would like to preface my statement by underlining the need for the multilateral trading system to be responsive to the economic needs and development conditions of member states, particularly the least developed member countries such as my country, Malawi,” said Mwanamveka.

He told the conference that the world is aware that the outcomes of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations had inherent serious imbalances which have negatively affected efforts by least developed countries to integrate into the global economy.

“Unfortunately, we have seen these imbalances creep into the DDA agenda[Doha Development Agenda],” he said adding that this has resulted into frustrations in the past 14 years over arriving at agreements on agriculture, Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA) and other areas that have a potential of propelling least developed countries towards more benefits from the global trading system.

He went on to say that in this respect, his Malawi delegation associates itself with the Statements made by the coordinators of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, and LDCs Groups and statements made by Lesotho as Chairperson of the African Group.

“We also welcome the proposed package for LDCs on duty free quota free; preferential rules of origin; services waiver; and cotton issues as LDCs’ deliverables for Nairobi,” he said.

Representatives of the LCDs were disappointed by sentiments from countries like the US where its Trade Representative Michael Frothman called on WTO members to let the world free itself from the strictures of Doha.

Mwanamveka emphasised the point that trade facilitation is an important element towards improving the enabling environment for export competitiveness especially in countries that are landlocked like Malawi.

“In this regard, Malawi proposes that landlocked countries and their coastal neighbours need to enter into transit bilateral agreements/arrangements that should define the conditions, obligations and rights under which the parties will use the transit facilities, including transit corridors, ports, roads, inland waterways and rail transport to facilitate trade with the least amount of interruptions,” he said.

The minister therefore, declared that Malawi fully endorses the objectives of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF).

“Our own ratification process of the ATF Agreement is at an advanced stage, and will be finalized soon. We, therefore, urge other member states to also expedite the ratification process so that the envisaged two thirds majority is achieved and that the benefits to be realized from this agreement are realized soon,” he said.

Mwanamveka also called on developed partners to fulfil their obligations towards provision of technical and financial assistance to support implementation of the Agreement.

The Malawi leader of delegation also told the WTO ministerial which was taking place on African soils for the first time that it should be noted that Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) such as quotas, import licensing systems, sanitary regulations, prohibitions, etc as well as supply-side constraints remain a salient feature of the multilateral trading system that is preventing countries like my own to take advantage of the market access that our global partners have offered us.

“Against this background, Malawi is requesting for additional resources through Aid for Trade and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) initiatives to deal with these supply side constraints,” he said.

Mwanamveka was quick to acknowledge the support Malawi is already getting through the continuation of the EIF Phase 2 programme; and commends development partners for their generous contributions towards the EIF Trust Fund.

“We also want to acknowledge support from the EU, UNCTAD, ITC, UNDP, and the World Bank; and all the bilateral technical assistance provided by development partners,” he said.

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