The WTO and Sustainable Development
Lesotho Ambassador Mothae Maruping is the current chair of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Development. ICTSD has a nice report of their recent meeting and its focus on sustainable development. One thought is how to integrate the WTO’s Aid for Trade program with the goal of developing a green economy. Nevertheless, it is clear that some developing countries may also see the WTO as a shield from any radical green agenda that might try to restrict their ability to trade. The delegate from Benin:
Benin said that the WTO should facilitate the elimination of distorting trade practices related to environment that are “incompatible with sustainable development”. “It is important to avoid creating new trade barriers, imposing new conditions to aid, and deepening the technological gap between developed countries and developing countries
The WTO and Regional Integration within Africa
Peter Draper has a nice discussion of the relevance of WTO rules for regional integration efforts in Africa (ICTSD). He anchors his discussion with consideration of the proposed tripartite preferential trade agreement (T-PTA) between SADC, COMESA, and the EAC (basically uniting southern and eastern Africa). He points to a WTO report which singles some of the issues in maintaining coherence between WTO rules and the rules of these new trade arrangements. His overall conclusion seems to be that the negotiating parties strive to maintain coherence with WTO rules and perhaps even allow the WTO’s help with a “mulilateralizing regionalism” component.
Trying to Move Forward
The BRICS would like to remind us that Doha is not yet dead (MN). Both at their own summit last month and at a G-20 meeting in Mexico, they made this point. The WTO’s Director-General Pascal Lamy continues to try to breathe new life into the round. His most recent innovation is the creation of a 12-person panel of stakeholders which include corporate leaders, former heads of state, and leaders of various international institutions. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae is the sole African representative to the panel.
One of the major sticking points has been agriculture, especially for many African countries. The Doha Round began with a major campaign criticizing European and American farm subsidies and support for undermining agriculture in developing countries. Many of these subsidies continue, but there are some signs of change in Europe, at least. ICTSD reported this week that total EU farm support has dropped a bit and overall trade-distorting support has dropped even further:
Overall trade-distorting support – a category including amber, blue, and de minimis support – reportedly fell to €18.3 billion, a figure that is below the €22 billion cap that would be established under the draft Doha agriculture accord. (ICTSD)
African elephants have been a major subject recently. News reports state that…
At least half the elephant population in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida reserve have been slaughtered because the west African nation sent too few security forces to tackle poachers.
Over at Africa Unchained, Julie Owono notes that there is a major capacity problem for Cameroonian authorities. But clearly another major problem is that there is global–and in particular Chinese–demand for ivory. Last summer, Deborah Brautigam blogged about how “When China and Africa Dance, the Elephants Get Trampled”, citing an article in Vanity Fair. But today, over at the New York Times, Bettina Wassener, sees this demand traced to Cameroon’s recent elephant massacre (“China’s Hunger for Ivory…”).
But not all of the news is pessimistic. Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed to establish the “world’s largest wildlife conservation area”, to be known as the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA).
This looks very interesting and has great reviews already!
H/T to Deborah Brautigam
“In clustered Central Accra, they pave the streets in praise-pursuit; china-smooth like heaven’s highway.”
– That is Nana Yaw Asiedu on his blog Anti-Rhythm, contrasting the “two Accras”, one that is more rougher and the other, “china-smooth”. Which makes me wonder, in Africa how much might “China” be associated with modernity and higher standards of living?
I have occasionally thought about opening my own coffee shop, or bookstore, or restaurant… Not that any of these things are likely. And not that any of these ideas are that original.
However, one idea that I have had that I think might be a bit more unique is to open up a chain of fast casual Africa-themed restaurants. The idea would be to feature cuisines from different parts of Africa, sort of like this restaurant in Seattle:
I am unlikely to ever do this, my current gig is satisfying and keeps me plenty busy. But I hope someone thinks about doing this. I would love to be able to get some fufu with groundnut soup wherever I am!
Anyways, I was inspired to think about this idea again while watching some of the episodes of America’s Next Great Restaurant a month or so ago. No “Africa” concepts were presented, but maybe next time?
As many friends and colleagues know, one of my two core research agendas considers Africa’s changing relationships with rising powers in the world, and in particular China.
Here are some of the latest (well, I was on vacation a couple weeks so some of this may not seem very recent to all of you!) items I’ve found:
Secretary Clinton’s trip to the continent has included a number of important statements about US policy towards Africa and its interpretation of China’s role on the continent.
- The Wall Street Journal (June 11) starts off saying that Clinton “warned that China didn’t always have Africa’s interests at heart”, but that the US was interested in cooperating with China in Africa.
- NPR’s story (June 11, “China Latest Superpower to Mine African Treasures”) sees China’s presence in Africa as a reason for Clinton’s visit.
- Over at the Huffington Post, Jamie Bechtel(June 7, “USA 5: China 1: Africa 0. It’s Time to Get our Game On”) takes an oversimplified look at how the US and China are engaging in Africa, but she is absolutely right that we lack adequate policy coherence with regards to our role on the continent.
- Simon Lester, on the International Economic Law and Policy Blog, follows a series of interesting African TV show interviews (with Secretary Clinton, for instance) to consider “which has a more colonialist feel: investment with no concern for the impact on the host country, or using trade and investment as a tool to influence how a foreign country is governed?”
Meanwhile, Antoaneta Becker’s IPS story (June 7, “North Africa: China Begins to Look Away from Africa”,via allAfrica.com) suggests that recent political uprisings in North Africa could change China’s perceptions of doing business in the continent. If that is the case, then I must wonder: does China have the same “Africa is a country” problem that so many people seem to have here in the US?
I like the anecdote in Giles Mohan’s piece (in the African Arguments blog) of an Angolan official who is asked about China’s role there: “[he] looked at us incredulously asking why we were so obsessed with the Chinese. He said they were only one amongst a range of new investors, and his country was open for business to all of them.” Indeed, while China has emerged as Angola’s key trading partner, any account of Angola’s external trade and investment would have to include consideration of other rising economies, including Brazil.
Deborah Brautigam does her usual service to our understanding of China-Africa relations by providing some correctives to an April story in The Economist.