by Chrispinus Omar

Anlysts say the meeting, the first of its kind to be held in Africa, has shown Nairobi’s position as one of the few African states that have struggled to keep pace with the world’s trade liberalization process.

World Trade Organization

Kenya was amongst the founder members of the WTO. Kenyan officials took part in the negotiations creating the international trade body in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1994.

The aim of Kenya’s participation at the initial negotiations was to safeguard national interests of the farmers, because agriculture remains Kenya’s economic mainstay and largely responsible for Kenya’s economic growth and the manufacturing sector.

Backing the participation in the multilateral trading system, the ministries of agriculture, trade and industry and transport and communications in Kenya have been actively involved in the WTO affairs.

Experts say although Kenya remains a major player and a regional opinion leader on matters of international trade, Nairobi’s negotiating capacity has mostly been undermined by lack of a legally constituted body within the government to fully engage on the WTO issues on a national basis.

There are also claims that the government has mostly overshadowed other private sector players in Kenya on negotiating industry-specific issues at the WTO level, apart from lacking the capacity to churn out all-inclusive views relevant to the textile, fish exporters and other related industries.

While debate remains on whether the trade liberalization talks are bearing fruit for Kenya, experts suggest developing a lone-ranger negotiating plan for the WTO talks would not benefit Kenya.

Kenya has signed 16 of the WTO’s current trade regulations. On Thursday, the WTO announced Kenya became the 57th member state to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

While support for more efficient tax and customs clearance systems are set to shore up regional trade, concern remains on whether countries are more committed to deepening the global trade.

This is because for a better part of the WTO’s 20 years of existence, two thirds of the time has been spent on bickering between states on the implementation of the Doha Round of trade talks.

Despite the lack of progress, experts maintain the consequences of non-participation in the talks would harm more products from Kenya with the potential that the entire economic sectors would be at risk.

The WTO Secretariat explains that the system of rule-based trading system might sound complex because the legal texts are written in legal language. However, they offer a safe-guard against trade barriers.

These agreements cover agriculture, trade, textiles and clothing, banking, telecommunications, government purchases and industrial standards.

“Sometimes, promising not to raise a trade barrier can be as important as lowering one, because he promise gives businesses a clearer view of their future opportunities,” the WTO said in a recent report issued ahead of the Nairobi ministerial conference, outlining its work plans.

“With stability and predictability, investment is encouraged, jobs are created and consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of competition,” the statement said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua


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