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THE ISSUE (ON THE RIGHT): A way to realise trade potential

Senator Maxine McClean

THE ISSUE (ON THE RIGHT): A way to realise trade potential

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Is there still a case for special and differential treatmentin international trade?

As we seek to better participate in world trade, we as members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) see it as a mechanism to regulate, to set the rules, and effectively serve to protect our capacity and our interest in participating. Trade, among other things, is one of the roots to developmpent, it is a contributor to our respective national development strategies and stages as well, so it is necessary then that we are active, that we have our voices heard, that we effectively contribute to the shaping and the charting of the rules, the procedures and the ultimate outcome of the efforts of the WTO.

For us, any effort to negotiate the rules of trade has to recognise that the membership of the African Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), we are all developing countries, we are faced with the need to build capacity to trade effectively in the global trading system. We need to identify strategies that will allow us to do that, but before we even get to talking about strategies for facilitating development, there has to be a fundamental recognition that there has to be a provision for some flexibilities given the characteristics of our respective countries. For example, we talk about special and differential treatment, that is simply recognising that there are differences between the developed world and the developing world and so I think that is part of the need to remind the membership of the WTO that we have special needs which have to be accommodated.

If we are not accommodated, the reality is we are not in a position to realise our greatest potential to trade and, at the end of the day, our major trading partners are those countries who benefit substantially. We, in most instances, import substantially more than we export. Much of the goods and services that we do consume are imported from the countries with whom we are seeking to build a just and fair trading system. My challenge to the membership really is to look to see what we have left undone and how we can address what has been left undone to determine how we go forward. It may mean modifying some things, elminating some things, but we simply cannot turn the page unless we adequately address what is in fact unfinished.

It is absolutely essential that we stand together. Many of our countries have a common history, in terms of our colonial past, that has pretty much shaped the structural make-up of our economies. The challenges of development we share in common, the solutions, I believe that we have to find in common as we work. It is easier to achieve the level of successes that we desire if we collaborate and work as a group.

There is strengh in numbers, the very fact that we have similar circumstances, similar challenges, common vulnerabilities, we are in a situation where individually the efforts that we make would not translate into the kind of results that they would if we worked collectively. And so, for us, the question basically is collaborate because there is strength in numbers, there is the need to pool our resources, which are limited. And really and truly we are negotiating within the context of the WTO with significant world powers and I think that is also a critical issue to recognise, that our voices when heard collectively are probably better heard.

Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and African, Caribbean and Pacific States spokesperson, made these comments late last month following the World Trade Organisation’s 10th Ministerial Conference in Kenya.