tralac Daily News

News

tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News
Photo credit: EIF

Country focus

Consumer protection bodies reminded of mandate (SAnews)

Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister Nomalungelo Gina has reminded regulators with consumer protection mandate to continue with their efforts to put a spotlight on consumer rights. “We all know that South African consumers are still grappling with the effects of COVID-19, I urge the National Consumer Commission (NCC) and other regulators in the consumer protection space to leave no stone unturned when dealing with unscrupulous suppliers that are exploiting consumers,” Gina said. Gina made the call during World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) observed on Monday, under the theme ‘Protecting Consumers during COVID-19’.

Covid-19 Has Created Opportunities to Devise Innovative Ways to Trade: Consulate General Magabe (the dtic)

The South African Consulate General to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mr Mogobo Magabe says the challenge of COVID-19 has created an unprecedented opportunity to devise innovative responses to new challenges and trading. Mogobo was speaking during a virtual trade and investment webinar attended by both South Africa and UAE businesspeople today.

“This year has been a tumultuous year for all humanity. We are all grappling with the challenge of COVID-19 and with continuing to sustain international cooperation in a context of reduced opportunity for direct physical contact. While they are many challenges, the trade between South Africa and the UAE have proved its resilience during the hard times of lockdown and travel restrictions,” said Mogobo.

“The UAE is also an important hub for exports and re-exports of meat such as beef, mutton, goat and poultry including rabbit. There are 13 UAE approved abattoirs in South Africa, this is a small number as compare to other countries. That is why today we have invited both Dubai Customs and Dubai Municipality present to us about requirements to export to UAE which includes processes to obtain halal certificate and other important procedures,” he said.

Early Signs of Success for the Sugar Industry as Implementation of Master Plan Takes-off (the dti)

In the midst of the pandemic last year, the sugar industry showed signs of growth. This was said by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel on Friday, at a meeting with farmers, millers, retailers, food producers and trade unions. The meeting held virtually, provided an update on progress in the implementation of the recently-signed Sugar Master Plan. The Report indicated a 15% growth in local sugar sales, in an industry that was previously described as facing crisis conditions. The industry saw increases in purchases of sugar from both the retail and industrial sectors, which includes soft-drink manufacturers. Minister Patel says in spite of these successes, there are challenges that need to be addressed speedily, to ensure the growth of the sugar industry.

Op-ed: It’s time South Africa had a serious talk about rail (Mining Review)

As President Ramaphosa highlighted in his presentation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) to parliament in October last year, rail lies at the heart of reviving South Africa’s economy. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is clear: rail has supported the economy for decades. Now, with infrastructure needing repairs or replacement, partnerships with the private sector and other players are critical.

Rail has long been the backbone of the South African logistics and transport value chain, and will become even more critical in a post COVID-19 environment. It is cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than road transport, and lends itself to carrying cargo in a sanitised, minimal-contact environment. The case for rail, we believe, is clear and compelling. Rail remains the most viable option for the transportation of freight like grain, automotive components and fully built car units and minerals. It will reduce road congestion, and free our roads up to carry commuter traffic and sensitive

Zimbabwe to produce Covid-19 medicines (The Herald)

Zimbabwean companies are poised to get funding from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the manufacturing of Covid-19 medical and other pharmaceutical products. Dr Tax informed the council that 17 companies from the region have been earmarked to manufacture Covid-19 medical and other pharmaceutical products under the initiative supported by the European Union (EU) and German development agency, GIZ. The initiative is aimed at enhancing the capacities in research and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, essential medicines and medical supplies.

The SADC Council of Ministers held a virtual meeting on March 12, 2021, to discuss policies, strategies and programmes geared towards consolidating SADC regional integration in fulfilment of Council’s mandate as spelt out in Article 11 of the SADC Treaty.

Simplify export procedures: Industry (The Herald)

Manufacturers have implored the Government to simplify export procedures, as industry must refocus following the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which opens a 1,3 billion people market. This was said by United Refineries chief executive Busisa Moyo, who is also Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority (ZIDA) chairman and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) past president. Further, Mr Moyo said entrenching macroeconomic stability (exchange rate, inflation), political will, efficient infrastructure (borders, roads, ICT)), retooling finance (structured finance), competitiveness and retraining will be among key requirements to tap into AfCFTA.

COVID-19 Further Pushes Nigeria’s Unemployment Rate Northwards (ProShare)

After a spasmodic schedule of data releases on unemployment and labour statistics, the NBS finally released the much awaited unemployment numbers for Q4’20 this afternoon. Not surprisingly, the number spiked by 6.2% to 33.3% from 27.1% in Q2’20. The figure now makes Nigeria jump from No. 5 to the 3rd highest rate of unemployment in the world. The highest being Bosnia and Herzegovina (33.69%) and the 2nd highest in Africa next to Namibia, which has an unemployment rate of 33.4%.

This data point will be very disturbing to policy makers after the stimulus package of N2.3trn or 4% of GDP and the recent greatly heralded exit from recession. It is troubling to the extent that when conflated with the high level of multidimensional poverty of 64.8% in the Northwest of Nigeria, it shows that there is a simmering crisis of poverty, unemployment, debt and productivity in Nigeria. The misery index, which is the sum of unemployment and inflation, will increase to 49.77%. The good news, however, is that underemployment declined by approximately the same magnitude 5.8% as the increase in unemployment. It looks coincidental but it means that an underemployed man is less dangerous to society than a completely unemployed citizen.

How trade can hasten Nigeria’s economic recovery, by Okonjo-Iweala (The Guardian Nigeria)

Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, has situated the centrality of trade in Nigeria’s quick economic recovery if the populous black nation could add more value to its products and improve infrastructure for competitiveness. She urged the country to step up action on the agricultural value chain, information technology, fisheries among others, noting sadly, that Nigeria’s stakes in global and continental were 0.33 and 19 per cents. Describing the statistics as a small fraction of what the country could achieve during separate courtesy visits to President Muhammadu Buhari; Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Industry Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo; and Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; yesterday in Abuja, the WTO DG noted:

“Nigeria ranks 103 out of 167 countries in logistics and that means we have a long way to go. For me, that is a potential area we can invest to improve our logistics so we can take advantage of trade within the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).” Okonjo-Iweala continued: “We have difficulty and challenges with our economy. We have to move fast. We have potential to do so much better, and trade is a very strong part of that story. But I am glad that in world trade, Nigeria is active in the area of agriculture and joint statement initiatives.”

LCCI urges FG to set up resolution mechanism between the Customs and business community (Nairametrics)

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called on the Federal Government to create an Independent Appeal Mechanism to settle disputes between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the business community. This was disclosed by the Director-General of LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, in a statement on Sunday in Lagos. The commerce boss said that a resolution framework was needed as Nigeria prepared to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). “The LCCI calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by setting up an Independent Appeal Mechanism to deal with issues of valuation and HS classification between the Nigeria Customs Service and the Business community. “This could be done within the framework of an Executive Order as this is necessary to restore the confidence of investors in the international trade process,” he said.

Ghana, Rwanda seek to deepen trade, tourism and investments (The New Times)

As African countries continue to break the ground for trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, Ghana and Rwanda are looking to increase trade, tourism and investments with each other. A delegation of 30 officials from Ghana’s sectors of tourism, trade and investment are currently in Rwanda on a 6-day visit, where they will meet with officials from both the government and private sector, as they seek to explore opportunities in which the two countries can partner. “We want Ghana and Rwanda to work more closely in areas of business and tourism. We really want to take a lot from Rwanda back to Ghana, and also bring a lot from Ghana to Rwanda,” said Bella Ahu, the President of Ghana Tourism Federation, who is one of the officials making up the Ghanaian delegation.

“The free-trade area is actually opening the doors wider for us to come together and put business together, so we are happy we are here. We want to see what we can do together. We want to know the needs of Rwanda and provide for them, and at the same time, we also want to see how Rwanda can provide what is needed in Ghana,” she added.

SEATINI suggests ways of improving Uganda-Kenya trade relations (Independent)

As players in maize trading between Uganda and Kenya workout modalities for improving trade relations, questions remain on whether authorities can walk-the talk. On March 11, Kenya announced the lifting of a ban on imports of maize grain from Uganda and Tanzania with strict adherence to standards.

UAE retains position as biggest buyer of Ugandan products (Independent)

United Arab Emirates has retained its position as the biggest buyer of Ugandan products for the fourth consecutive year after making orders worth US$1.84 billion from Kampala in 2020, latest data shows. However, China retained its spot as the leading seller of manufactured products to the east African nation. The United Arab Emirates rose to the top export market position upon hitting the US$485.13million mark in 2016 at the expense of Kenya, whose orders stood at US$ 422.99million. Data from Bank of Uganda shows that Kenya emerged second as Uganda’s export market with orders worth US$465million, representing 11% market share of the country’s total export revenues.

Kenya, Tanzania enable multinationals evade taxes (The East African)

Kenya and Tanzania are among the world’s 70 countries notorious in helping multinational corporations to underpay corporate income tax, leading to lower revenue collections and persistent budget deficit, according to the latest Corporate Tax Haven Index (CTHI 2021) by Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), a Pan-African research and advocacy organisation. The findings of the study which were made public last week show that Kenya is responsible for 0.1 percent of the world’s corporate tax abuse with CTHI of 0.14 percent, haven score of 50 percent and Global Scale weight of 0.013 percent.


News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations 

ECA and stakeholders in East African Community (EAC) meet to review AfCFTA strategy

The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), a unit of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), together with stakeholders in the East African Community (EAC) are meeting tomorrow to review the Community’s draft implementation strategy for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The virtual meeting will among other things review the ratification and compliance of the strategy with existing agreements, the Community’ response to the COVID—19 pandemic and the development of an implementation work plan. The ATPC is supporting 41 African countries and regional economic communities (RECS) in the development of the AfCFTA strategies across Africa. This includes the EAC, to which it is providing strategic and policy recommendations on how best to improve the implementation of the AfCFTA within the EAC, with a view to promoting trade performance, competitiveness, digitalization and investments.

ECA and UNCTAD jointly hosting event to discuss women’s role in cross-border trade in Africa

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are jointly organizing a webinar on Wednesday 17 March to discuss women’s role in small-scale cross-border trade in Africa. The virtual event is taking place on the sidelines of the 65th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the main global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The topic for discussion is the future for women’s small-scale and informal cross-border traders in Africa, and it comes in response to the global health crisis, as countries in Africa introduced restrictive measures affecting the movement of people and merchandise. “As has been the case with other shocks, women risk bearing the brunt of this pandemic,” the organizers said, adding: “A more tailored package of measures is needed.”

Focus should now be on recovery, building resilience for job creation (Daily Monitor)

We are living in times of great uncertainty, fuelled by the onset of Covid-19. Despite this, we have maintained our focus on supporting trade and building prosperity, creating jobs, and reducing poverty in eastern Africa. Covid-19 is daunting, complex, and ubiquitous. It is not just a public health matter; but also affects progress in the fight against poverty in Africa, due to its direct impact on jobs and economic performance. It has catalysed rethinking of global supply chains, shaken traditional patterns of partnerships, but also stimulated unanticipated innovation. It has magnified the importance of trade as a driver for development and building resilient economies. It is noteworthy that projected economic growth has more than halved in many countries, particularly in East Africa. TradeMark East Africa has responded by creating a Covid-19 mitigation programme that leveraged our 10 years of experience, in addition to accelerate core programming with higher levels of innovation and forged new partnerships to address challenges to eastern Africa’s recovery.

SADC builds momentum on trade pact (The Southern Times)

Excitement over projected intra-Africa trade growth swelled last week, as SADC governments, experts and a regional lender rallied industrialists to scale up business under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). “For this trade to prosper there will be a need for the development and indeed utilisation of enabling infrastructures such as roads, rail, and inland bridges. On the side of trade in services opportunities are abound in financial or non-banking services like insurance and micro-lending, energy sector and transportation,” said Mr Phazha Butale, chief negotiator in Botswana’s Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry.

Namibia exports to Africa declined by 13 percent in 2020, but hopes remain that AfCFTA will see the country improving exports. “As such, AfCFTA provides Namibia with an opportunity to widen its market share for both imports and exports,” said daily newspaper New Era. In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has described AfCFTA as “the greatest step towards continental unity since the founding of the Organisation of African Unit”. Zimbabwe’s Industry and commerce minister, Mrs Sekai Nzenza told industrialists to brace for better trade and investment opportunities as the region throws away trade barriers to 90 percent of goods originating from member States.

Keep remittances flowing to Africa (Brookings)

Remittances—money sent by migrants to families back home—provide a financial lifeline to millions of households. Remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries reached $550 billion in 2019, surpassing foreign direct investment and official development aid. These are only recorded flows; the true size—including those through informal channels—is even larger. Remittance flows to sub-Saharan Africa were recorded to be $48 billion in 2019 (Figure 1.8), but the true total is likely to be significantly larger.

Strengthening Africa’s medicine manufacturing capacity: Opinion (IOL)

A recent pre-feasibility study for the establishment of manufacturing plants for essential medicines and health commodities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) showed that several essential medicines can be made more cost effectively in Africa. There is a caveat, as this model relies on the need for longer-term commitments for procurement, the implementation of a pooled procurement strategy for the region, and, most importantly, government incentive schemes such as tax breaks and duty-free capital goods.

No country in Africa can sustain a market by itself. In the case of a single country manufacturing drugs for itself, where the market is large and therefore capable of sustaining a product – as in India, China and the United States – the situation is different. In Africa, which is made up many countries with different disease priorities and regulatory systems, a different commercial model is required.

SMEs in renewable sector receives leg-up from TDB (Engineering News)

The Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) on March 15 launched an off-grid facility for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The $75-million facility is aimed at facilitating access to debt financing for SMEs, primarily targeting renewable energy businesses in the off-grid energy sector, as well as SMEs in the broader infrastructure value chain operating in the region served by TDB.

Oil will play a vital role in empowering Africa for the next two decades – ARDA (Modern Ghana)

Executive Secretary of the African Refiners and Distributors Association, Anibor Kragha, has indicated that oil will play a vital role in empowering Africa for the next two decades. He said nations in Africa will reap the potentials in the petroleum downstream sector following the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). “Oil will definitely play a vital role in empowering Africa in the next two decades. In fact, when you look at the energy mix for Africa, you will realize that oil will still be about 60% of the primary energy mix for Africa for the next two decade and ARDA is committed to leading Africa’s energy transition story over that period,” he stated.

Consequences of COVID-19 on African Caribbean Pacific and EU countries (The European Sting)

The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) calls on the EU to make COVID-19 vaccines a global public good that is accessible to all. The ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly (JPA) adopted on Friday a resolution calling on the EU and its member state to provide greater support to ACP countries, especially those with the most vulnerable populations and whose economies and health systems are most precarious.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that requires a global response. We therefore expect EU member states and ACP countries to cooperate constructively with each other to combat the pandemic within the framework of multilateral institutions. These are needed more than ever and should be strengthened even further, rather than being weakened. None of us are safe until all of us are safe, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Carlos Zorrinho (S&D, PT) said

EU mulls visa pressure so African states take back migrants (The Associated Press)

European Union ministers on Monday debated ways to persuade northern African countries to take back migrants denied entry into the 27-nation bloc, as the EU considers making it more difficult for those failing to cooperate to secure European visas.Migrants arriving in Europe without authorization routinely lose or destroy their identity documents, or use fake papers, making it hard to work out where they came from and send them home. Sometimes the countries they live in or transit through are reluctant to take them back.”We have to work for safe and fair and regular migration. We have to put together incentives in order to make third countries accept the people who have to go back, and to create a flow of regular migration,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Biden should send COVID vaccine to Africa, counter China’s influence (Business Insider)

A new president brings opportunity for a new strategy towards Africa, a continent that has too often been ignored by American presidents. President Joe Biden’s decision to back Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for head of the World Trade Organization is a step in the right direction. Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with unbridled entrepreneurial youth. Much of the continent’s populace view American ideals favorably, but many are worried about a prolonged period of American disinterest.

To counter this “vaccine diplomacy” from China, the US should provide Africa with COVID tests and supplies. African leaders and the public are frustrated by the lack of access to vaccines, which are being stockpiled by wealthy Western countries like the US. The continent requires more than 1.5 billion doses to meet its targets, but only about a million have been shipped to South Africa, with a few million more expected to arrive to select countries in coming months.


Global economy

Competitive in good times, resilient in bad times: What COVID-19 taught us about MSMEs (Trade 4 Dev News)

In January 2020, the spread of an infectious disease appeared at the very bottom of the World Economic Forum’s top ten high-impact risks. A year later, it had risen to number one. As of mid-February 2021, COVID-19 had infected nearly 110 million people, and caused close to 1.5 million deaths and US$28 trillion in economic losses.

The impact of the crisis also differed across sectors. Survey results show that COVID-19 affected companies in the services sector more severely, particularly those in accommodation and food services, followed by non-food manufacturing, retail and wholesale, and travel and transport. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are overrepresented in most of these sectors.

These findings unfortunately do not come as a surprise. Small businesses are often cash strapped, hold less inventory and have smaller and less diversified networks of suppliers, among other constraints. Absorbing revenue shortfalls, making up for input shortages or tapping into new suppliers is thus more challenging. Despite the bleak picture, ITC found that many MSMEs displayed a high degree of resilience. This is probably because MSMEs face an ‘innovate or die’ dilemma, unlike large firms that have resources to sustain them through crises. What was learned from these MSMEs can and should inform the development of strategies to make firms more resilient to any future crisis.

More international cooperation needed to better protect consumers (UNCTAD)

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers’ lives intensifies, so does the need for international cooperation to protect them. Consumers have faced a shortage of essential goods and services, hoarding, new forms of misleading advertisements and other deceptive commercial practices seeking undue advantages in these challenging times, all in a ubiquitous digital environment.

“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for more international cooperation to better protect consumers, especially for product safety and for online purchases,” said UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant during the European Consumer Summit 2021 held online to mark the day. UNCTAD’s World Consumer Protection Map shows that 60% of the countries that provided data for it have no experience in cross-border cooperation. When it happens, it’s mainly among developed countries.

International cooperation in consumer protection is only feasible when effective national laws, policies and institutions are in place. “The African Continental Free Trade Area is an ideal platform to protect African consumers at the regional level,” said Hussein Hassan, acting director of the department of trade and industry at the African Union. “We are eager to engage with other international partners to enhance our capacities.” Technical cooperation to developing countries must remain a priority for all actors with a stake in consumer protection.

The need for speed: faster vaccine rollout critical to stronger recovery (OECD)

A global economic recovery is in sight but a faster and more effective vaccination rollout across the world is critical, while respecting necessary health and social distancing measures, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook. Activity in many sectors has picked up and adapted to pandemic restrictions over recent months. Vaccine deployment, although uneven, is finally gaining momentum and government fiscal stimulus – particularly in the US – is likely to provide a major boost to economic activity. But the pandemic is widening gaps in economic performance between countries and between sectors, increasing social inequalities, particularly affecting vulnerable groups, and risking long-term damage to job prospects and living standards for many people.

The OECD sees global GDP growth at 5.6% this year, an upward revision of more than 1 percentage point since its projection in December 2020, and 4% in 2022. World output is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by mid-2021 but the pace and duration of the recovery will depend on the race between vaccines and emerging variants of the virus.

The outlook for global growth would be better than currently projected – and approach pre-pandemic projections for activity – if the production and distribution of vaccines accelerates, is better co-ordinated around the world and gets ahead of virus mutations. This would allow containment measures to be relaxed more rapidly. But if vaccination programmes are not fast enough to cut infection rates or if new variants become more widespread and require changes to current vaccines, consumer spending and business confidence would be hit.

COVID-19 eroding social cohesion and triggering rise in civil unrest in crisis-affected countries, alert UNDP, g7+ (UNDP)

With over 2.6 million dead and 117 million infections, no country in the world has remained untouched by COVID-19. Yet one year on from the declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization, evidence shows that crisis-affected countries have been especially hard-hit by the secondary impacts of the crisis, including rising poverty rates, a rise in domestic and other forms of violence and an erosion of trust between citizens and state. In response, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and group of g7+ countries have today called for greater international support to help vulnerable populations recover from COVID-19 during an event held as part of the UNDP-led Development Dialogues: Rethinking Solutions to Crisis in the Decade of Action series. “We know the coronavirus does not discriminate. However, the measures that are taken to contain it, do,” said Haoliang Xu, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, at the event.

“The pandemic is hitting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people hardest, with significant implications for marginalized groups, including women and girls. This is even more pronounced in crisis settings. Addressing these challenges and making additional investments to reduce economic and societal vulnerabilities in the face of COVID-19 will be critical,” said Xu.

SE4ALL launches campaign to help drive reliable energy supply (Engieernig News)

International organisation Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) has launched a new year-long campaign called “Be Bold” to drive ambitious action to meet Sustainable Development Goal number seven (SDG7), which calls for affordable and reliable energy for all by 2030. The campaign follows the realisation that affordable and clean energy for all can help alleviate the global crises of extreme poverty and climate change.

Are we on track for a Green Recovery? Not yet (Africa Renewal)

The report, Are We Building Back Better? Evidence from 2020 and Pathways for Inclusive Green Recovery Spending, calls for governments to invest more sustainably and tackle inequalities as they stimulate growth in the wake of the devastation wrought by the pandemic. The most comprehensive analysis of COVID-19-related fiscal rescue and recovery efforts by 50 leading economies so far, the report reveals that only $368bn of $14.6tn COVID-induced spending (rescue and recovery) in 2020 was green. UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen: “Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown - we cannot afford to lose on any front. Governments have a unique chance to put their countries on sustainable trajectories that prioritize economic opportunity, poverty reduction and planetary health at once - the Observatory gives them the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries.”

Secretary-General “impressed” with Rwanda CHOGM progress (The Commonwealth)

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has congratulated the Rwandan government on progress in its preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), due to be held in the capital Kigali later this year. “Rwanda very much looks forward to hosting the Commonwealth family in their second home and we hope that your delegations will take time to visit our beautiful country and learn more about our people and our culture,” Foreign Minister Honourable Vincent Biruta said.

Members of Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender agree on work plan for 2021 (WTO)

Members agreed to Canada’s proposal for the work plan, which outlines activities aligned with the four key elements that the Informal Working Group intends to focus on: reviewing gender-related analytical work; experience sharing on increasing the participation of women in trade; considering the concept and scope for a “gender lens” and how it could apply to the work of the WTO; and supporting the WTO Aid for Trade work programme.

A number of members at the meeting said time could be spent later in the year to draft a declaration on trade and gender for the 12th Ministerial Conference, which will take place in the week of 29 November in Geneva. Several members suggested additions to the work plan as well, which Canada said it will incorporate in a revised document.

The WTO is choosing pharmaceutical profits over global immunity (Quartz)

The wealthiest countries in the world have blocked the latest effort by poor nations to speed access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments by temporarily lifting World Trade Organization rules protecting intellectual property. Sponsored by South Africa and India and backed by 57 nations, the waiver proposal under discussion since last autumn would have suspended, for the duration of the pandemic, portions of the TRIPS (Trade Related Protections for Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement covering medical necessities. This would allow developing economies to begin manufacturing medical goods without waiting for—or adhering to—licensing agreements with pharmaceutical companies that own the underlying intellectual property for medicines and vaccines.

The intellectual property provisions cover not just the specific formulas for medicines and vaccines, but also the proprietary software and techniques often needed to manufacture them. “While ramping up supply is completely essential, it is also wrong to say that IP isn’t the issue,” Yuanqiong Hu, a policy adviser with MSF, said in February. “IP is posing existing and emerging barriers to ensuring access to medicines, vaccines, and other medical tools can be available and accessible in an equitable and universal manner.”

Brexit: building trade access and market presence – Produce Blue Book

After four years of Brexit talk, one might be forgiven for thinking that we have had enough of discussing the pros and cons of trade deals for British fruit and vegetable businesses. While probably ending up with the best deal possible from Brexit, the early days of our new trading arrangements have seen the use of non-tariff barriers slow down United Kingdom agri food exports to, and imports from, Europe. As several key supply chain players have commented: “tariff free does not always feel like tariff free when you read the fine print.” Brexit might not be over just yet. In the UK though, this will be a decade dominated by trade deals and their ramifications.