IN MY previous column, I touched upon the two African candidates who are potential successors to Pascal Lamy as the director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Furthermore, I mentioned that appointing an African as the first ever director general of the WTO may help all African countries – but how?
In working towards helping trade flow more smoothly and predictably for the benefit of all, the WTO’s work is two-pronged: lowering trade barriers where possible and writing rules for maintaining trade barriers and for other trade policies.
In striving for this, the current trade-negotiation round of the WTO, the Doha Round - the ninth since World War II and the first since the WTO inherited the multilateral trading system in 1995 - aims to produce the first major overhaul of the system in the 21st Century.
The round hopes to achieve this through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules, covering about 20 areas of trade.
The first Doha meeting was held in November of 2001 and is not yet concluded - although some progress has been made.
Therefore, who better to lead the debate and conclude the Doha Round than an African, especially since it is semi-officially known as the Doha Development Agenda, because its fundamental objective is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries?
To conclude the round, all WTO member governments – currently 157 – must participate and reach decisions by consensus, which means everyone has to be persuaded before any deal can be struck.
With a wide array of interests, even within countries, imagine the political debacle of trying to get all 157 members to agree.
This is perhaps why many feel Alan Kyerematen is one of the favourites. Mr Kyerematen is a strong political figure, evidenced by him being one of the lead negotiators for Africa at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun in 2003 and his performance two years later, when WTO ministers next met in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong meetings are still remembered for the positive negotiating atmosphere they fostered. Kyerematen was again one of the key insiders who met in the most important closed-door meetings.
Not only is he good at politics, but his economic background is as impressive. During his period in office as minister of trade, Ghana received good marks in the WTO’s trade policy review of the country. The review noted that “trade liberalisation has helped to achieve higher economic growth” by cutting tariffs and enacting various structural reforms.
Yet another economic accolade for Kyerematen is the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development World Investment Forum, which now publishes a World Investment Report.
The reports provide annual reviews on which countries have taken steps to attract much-needed foreign investment and which have not. Ghana has been one of the star African performers.
Thus, having seen and experienced it all from an insider’s point of view and perhaps, more importantly, from an African perspective, Kyerematen should know what it would take to bring the Doha Round back to life and to drive the WTO’s objectives.
*Geoffrey Chapman is a guest columnist and trade policy expert at the SABS. Views expressed are his own.
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