By Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade | 2022-06-23
The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo says the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) was happening at a critical time, with global challenges that are threating survival and livelihoods of humanity.
The global world is interconnected by systems, such as the multilateral trading system of the WTO which was created many years ago. However the outbreak of pandemics such as the COVID-19 demand for an effective and a pragmatic response as well as a demonstration of a sound leadership on the part of the Members of the WTO.
“It is in this regard, that my delegation is looking forward to an outcome document, reached by consensus, which will clearly send a strong message that the WTO is responding to these global challenges,” Khumalo said.
The minister was addressing the WTO Member States during the MC12 event held in Geneva, Switzerland and co-hosted with Kazakhstan from 12 to 16 June 2022.
The MC12 deliberated upon a number of trade agreements such as the fisheries subsidies, food purchases exemption in response to the food insecurity and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Eswatini’s delegation was in full support of all the agreements, especially the TRIPS, where the minister seconded the introduction of the TRIPS waiver, “My delegation would like to underscore that the proposal for a waiver on certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement remain pertinent today.
This is in view of the fact that when the world a few months ago, appeared to be exiting the COVID-19 pandemic, new and rapidly transmissible variants and diseases are emerging,” he added.
It is believed that the TRIPS waiver is the most appropriate and effective approach to address the shortage and inequitable distribution and access to vaccines and other related supplies.
The WTO will be seen as taking the necessary and concrete steps towards preparing the world for future similar crises as COVID-19. This will be made possible by providing sufficient time to enable the establishment of viable manufacturing capacities in developing countries.
Meanwhile, the minister could not over emphasise on the importance of special and defferential treatment for least developed and developing countries,“an effective and appropriate special and differential treatment for developing countries is an integral part of the current and future WTO agreements, in line with the Marrakech Agreement,” he said.
Khumalo further requested that the special and differential treatment should be relevant to the peculiarities that are specific to most developing members, including Eswatini. “Eswatini is a small and vulnerable economy, landlocked, a net food importing lower-middle income county, preference dependent, limited commodity exporting country and prone to the negative and devastating impact of climate change,” Khumalo elaborated.
The minister requested the WTO Member States to consider a waiver for agriculture related activities and subsidies aimed at strengthening national food security.
“Agriculture remains a mainstay of our economic activity in Eswatini, we call upon the need for developing countries to retain ample policy space in providing assistance to their domestic producers for crops essential for their national food security,” he sent a request to the conference.
Other issues brought to the table by the country for discussion include the e-commerce with regards to the the glaring digital divide and infrastructure development among members of the WTO. Eswatini recognizes room for a further and in-depth reflection on the impact of the moratorium on consumers and businesses as well as on government revenues.
Fisheries subsidies, dispute settlements and WTO reforms were other important issues discussed during the MC12.
According to Khumalo, the WTO reform should foster greater coherence between trade and development. Eswatini believes that the facilitation of developing countries in global value chains to boost their participation in international trade must be prioritised as part of the reforms.
The minister commended Switzerland, Kazakhstan and the WTO Secretariat for hosting a successful WTO 12th Ministerial Conference.
“I would like to express our thanks to the host country, Switzerland for the hospitality extended to us, and to the Government of Kazakhstan, co-organiser of the conference. We also express our deep gratitude to the Secretariat of the WTO under the leadership of Dr Okonjo -Iweala for organising this important conference,” he added.
The Eswatini delegation included Minister Khumalo, Sizwe Ntshangase, former Director of International Trade Department and Khetsiwe Dlamini - Trade Policy Analyst. Also in attendance were His Excellency Ambassador Vuyile Dlamini and Counsellor Philile Masuku, based at the Permanent Mission of Eswatini in Geneva.
For more information contact
The International Trade Department
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade
Gwamile Street, between DPM’s Office and EswatiniBank
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