The Doha Round negotiations on industrial products have once again come under fire at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with developing countries such as South Africa saying that the proposed tariffs cuts will spell the end of their industrial development.
The European Union is determined to get those African countries on board which have so far kicked against the economic partnership agreements (EPAs). At the end of 2007, only 35 out of 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries had initialled EPAs.
The European Union (EU) has an ambitious agenda for the economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations. It is pushing for the conclusion of full agreements in the next one to three years, covering everything from services to ‘‘trade-related’’ issues such as investment, competition and government procurement.
The Ugandan parliament will soon have a hearing on the draft Plant Variety Protection Bill, approved by the cabinet early last year. If passed unmodified, the bill is likely to entrench the rights of breeders and companies while curtailing the rights of small farmers to exchange, save and breed new varieties using hybrid seeds.
Uganda’s major trade partners are not only looking for food markets but also for seed markets. This has happened in a push that has been packaged as ‘‘the new green revolution’’ by corporations involved in biotechnology and chemicals. They have been supported by philanthropic organizations, notably the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Process issues have once again risen to the fore in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as members brace themselves for the release of a new set of negotiating texts for agricultural and industrial tariff liberalisation at the end of this month or early February.
African negotiators are concerned that their development concerns have been sidelined in the much vaunted Doha Development Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Whether the round, which has missed previous deadlines, will be concluded this year or not depends on several issues.
A busy negotiating schedule is lined up for this year at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The question remains whether negotiators will have to continue passing the time as the powers-that-be in Washington are consumed by pre-election politics, or if the technical solutions which they have been working on could, in fact, lead to a conclusion of the Doha Development Round.
‘‘We succumbed,’’ lamented a diplomat from Namibia. ‘‘We signed on the 12th of December. The pressure was too much. The private sector felt that they would be disproportionately affected. In terms of markets, they would be losing access for beef, grapes, fish and fish products.’’
The news that the ministers of the East African Community (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) are on the verge of signing an economic partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) has been received with mixed reactions by government officials from these very same countries.
‘‘Dairy farmers in Kenya are doing well now,’’ says Peter Wanyeki, as he flashes a big smile. ‘‘Before, when we went home to the village, you could never take enough money with you. Everybody was poor. But now the situation is different. The dairy farmers are rich because they are getting a very good price for their milk.’’
On the eve of the deadline of the finalisation of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations, chaos reigns.