Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Annual Conference 2017


tralac Annual Conference 2017

tralac Annual Conference 2017

International Trade Governance – quo vadis?

tralac hosted its 2017 Annual Conference on 6th and 7th April in Cape Town, South Africa. The theme of the Conference was ‘International Trade Governance: quo vadis’. The Conference brought together more than a hundred delegates; they came from the African Union Commission (AUC), regional economic communities (RECs), government departments, academia as well as public and private sector representatives to share their experience and insights, learn from one another and debate international trade governance issues, particularly around Brexit, the Trump presidency, and the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and their implications for Africa. The participants also explored Africa’s own trade and integration agenda including the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). The Conference was structured around panel sessions and presentations to facilitate the broader discussion.

Trudi Hartzenberg, tralac’s Executive Director, welcomed the participants on behalf of the tralac team. She noted that the conference was taking place against the backdrop of global debate challenging accepted trade policy and governance norms of recent decades. Questions are being asked about an international trade governance system which, till recently, was viewed as the logical model for trade and investment governance in an interdependent and inter-connected world. References to a “crisis in globalisation,” marked by key disruptors of the status quo in international trade policy and governance, in particular the election of Mr Donald Trump as American President and the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Featuring prominently in the debates are concerns about distributional issues; who wins and who loses from international trade and globalisation. These are legitimate concerns and they feature in Africa’s own trade and integration discourse; with the challenge of integrating unequal partners being a key feature of all our integration endeavours.

H.E. Albert Mudenha Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, in his opening address thanked tralac for inviting the African Union Commission (AUC) to the Conference. He lauded the role of tralac in the advancement of Africa’s economic integration agenda via sensitising the public on integration and development through research and publications. The Commissioner expressed his confidence that the CFTA would be launched in December this year. He encouraged tralac to support the AUC in this historic mission and encouraged the active involvement of the private sector in the African Union programmes. The Commissioner further commended tralac for selecting a very important theme for the Conference in a time where everyone is questioning where we are going in international trade governance. The Commissioner pointed out that international trade governance is at cross-roads citing the rise of anti-globalisation, anti-free trade and economic nationalism across the globe. He stressed that what is needed at the moment is a way forward supporting trade governance that serves Africa’s interests and such way lie in the multilateral trading system. The Commissioner stated that Africa will continue supporting and adhering to the multilateral trading system. He underscored the importance of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in enhancing Africa’s competitiveness by reducing the costs of transportation and doing business. He emphasised the significance of a collective voice of Africa in the multilateral trading system. He also called for the need to have skilled negotiators of trade and investment agreements diplomatic mission of African Union member states in world capitals like Washington DC, Brussels, Geneva, Beijing, Tokyo, Paris, and London; among others, to secure Africa’s best interests in their commercial engagements with interlocutors in world capitals.

Lastly, the Commissioner acknowledged that the discussions of this conference will be useful in the following events: the G2O Summit in July this year, the AGOA Forum in September, 2017, the Africa-EU Summit in November 2017, the WTO Ministerial Conference in December, 2017; and, the conclusion of negotiations for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area in December, 2017 which should culminate in its launch in January, 2018.

Read more in the full conference report, available to download below.

Photos were taken by Domenic Gorin. Visit tralac's Flickr page for more.

Poster presentations

This year’s tralac Annual Conference featured, for the first time, a poster session following the conference dinner during which nine posters were presented on topical trade-related issues affecting the region:

Watch the keynote address

Delivered by Hon. Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa



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