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Africa News Update

Seattle, UNCTAD X reflects "genuine commitment" to Africa's growth

Addis Ababa - A three-day meeting convened to formulate common African positions on key global trade issues ended here today with a call for developed countries to ensure that Africa received a fair and balanced deal between of rights and obligations within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime.

The meeting also underscored the need for UNCTAD, along with other regional organisations, to assist African countries formulate national policies consistent with their individual development realities.

It also stressed the need for UNCTAD X to be an occasion for the launching of a new initiative that would bring about greater coherence between UNCTAD and the Bretton Woods institutions in translating policy ideas into practical programmes at the country level.

The meeting was organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the WTO, in anticipation of the upcoming Third WTO Ministerial Conference to be held from 30 November to 3 December 1999 in Seattle, USA, as well as the Tenth Session of UNCTAD scheduled for 12 to 20 February 2000 in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to a draft report prepared by the African Group (UNCTAD) in Geneva, entitled, ' Africa's Development Challenges and Actions Required in the Context of UNCTAD X and Beyond', critical sectors of the continent's economy exhibit poor performance, while "Africa's continuing marginalisation is increasingly defined by the continent's very low absolute level of exports and decreasing share in world trade during the past four decades".

The paper called for UNCTAD X to set the stage for a genuine international commitment to Africa's growth and sustainable development in the new millennium, with the conference taking urgent action to strengthen the countries' capacity for sustainable growth and development.

According to a statement read on behalf of the Chair of the African Group in Geneva, Ambassador George Sipho Nene of South Africa: "It is clear that without a substantial reduction in the level of external debt, the marginalization of Africa will continue. [...]. During UNCTAD X, an attempt should be made to mobilise support to widen the HIPC initiative to include more countries while criteria to define debt sustainability should be recast to not only focus on the export and fiscal ratios, but also take into consideration development indicators."

The meeting recommended that:

. Progress achieved in improving WTO transparency should be achieved through a broader policy of document de-restriction and informal means for dialogue with civil society;

· Further measures to enhance transparency of WTO operations should be looked into;

· The imperative of the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations not diverting attention from the need for a streamlined and accelerated accession process, particularly for LDCs;

· The automatic granting of special and differential treatment provisions to acceding developing countries as stipulated in the respective WTO agreements;

· That acceding developing countries should not be pressured to join Plurilateral Trade Agreements or accept optional sectoral market access initiatives.






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