WTO Breakfast Meeting with Kenyan private sector, 5 November 2015
The 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO MC10) is scheduled to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 15 to 18 December 2015. It is the first time the Ministerial will be held on the African continent.
Ahead of MC10, tralac hosted a breakfast meeting in conjunction with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) aimed at sensitizing the Kenyan private sector on important WTO issues especially in light of the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference.
KEPSA is the voice of the private sector in Kenya and is the umbrella body for private sector associations and corporate bodies in all sectors of the economy including trade associations and provides a platform for the private sector to engage in Public Private Dialogue at Local, National and International level. tralac is a capacity-building organisation developing trade-related capacity in East and Southern Africa. It aims to enhance the trade law and policy capacity in these regions and works with governments and non-state actors including the private sector.
The meeting was held at Nairobi Serena Hotel on 5 November 2015. In attendance were representatives from tralac, KEPSA members, Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, and Parliament.
Dr. Henry Mutai (tralac Associate) opened the meeting and began by appreciating the partnership with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). He noted the importance of the meeting as a means of promoting dialogue on what is important for Africa in the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference. Additionally, he pointed out tralac’s willingness to provide training on trade policy and law to the private sector in Kenya and the EAC region.
Discussions during the meeting centred on presentations delivered by respective resource persons as follows: Professor Jasper Okelo, WTO Chair, University of Nairobi, provided an overview and state of play of WTO negotiations; Prof. Ron Sandrey, tralac Associate, presented results of an analysis of Kenya’s trade profile and prospects for the CFTA; Mr. William Mwanza, tralac Researcher, discussed Trade Facilitation and non-tariff barriers to Kenya’s trade; Dr. Mirriam Omolo, Programmes Coordinator, Institute of Economic Affairs, discussed the Agreement on Agriculture; and Dr. Henry Mutai, tralac Associate, discussed Aid for Trade as an important aspect of the negotiations.
Also present at the meeting was Honourable Ochieng (Member of Parliament for Ugenya Constituency, Siaya County) who noted that the trade volumes in Africa are very low and have remained so for many years. He noted that the main challenge for the country has been interfacing the negotiated outcomes with reforms locally so that this is translated into benefits for the private sector. The main agenda therefore should be reduction of the cost of production locally and ensuring this interface. He noted that for the MC10, it is probably time that countries lowered their ambition so as to have convergence at the MC10.
Ambassador Ndirangu (Director for Economic Affairs and International Trade at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) noted that special and differential Treatment (S&DT) was key in Kenya’s participation at the MC10. Certain developing countries such as China, India and Brazil have emerged as major economies and are accorded similar privileges as Kenya and this presents certain challenges on competitiveness.
The following were agreed in terms of the way forward:
Since the MC10 is an event and global trade and regional integration are processes, there is need for follow up meetings after the MC10 in order to track progress and implementation of Ministerial outcomes.
KEPSA and tralac would partner on capacity building initiatives in order to enhance trade law and policy capacity of the private sector.
In closing, Dr. Mutai thanked participants for their effective engagement during the workshop. He indicated that tralac intends to host another workshop with private sector after the WTO Ministerial so as to review the outcome of the meeting and chart a way forward for further engagement.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Mutunga, KEPSA Agricultural sector Board Chair, appreciated the enlightening forum and urged for increased collaboration in order maximize fully on opportunities presented by WTO. Protectionist tendencies such as tariff escalation are a trend that has caused the continued reliance on exports of raw agricultural products by most African countries, and hence it is important that such issues are resolved within the WTO.