tralac Daily News
President Cyril Ramaphosa says through both operational improvements and structural reforms, the Durban Port will reclaim its place as the best-performing port in Africa.
“As part of our Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, we will continue to work tirelessly to expand infrastructure investment and transform our network industries,” President Ramaphosa said after his recent visit at the Durban Port. In his weekly Newsletter, President Ramaphosa said if the port does not function efficiently, the entire economy suffers, from importers and exporters to consumers. “On the other hand, if the port works well it can drive economic growth and position our country as a gateway to the region and the continent,” he said.
Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister, Nomalungelo Gina, has kicked off her week-long visit to KwaZulu-Natal with a visit to the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ). Gina’s visit is part of the national Siyahlola Programme whose purpose is to assess progress made in the implementation of the Special Economic Zones Programme (SEZ), Revitalisation of Industrial Parks Programme and the sector-specific Master Plans that are part of the re-imagined national industrial development strategy.
“The SEZ Programme has managed to attract a significant number of investors. This has seen the value of operational investments increasing from R17.7 billion by the end of the third quarter of the 2019-2020 financial year to R19.5 billion by the end of the third quarter of the 2020-2021 financial year.
South Africa faces logistics challenges (Fruitnet.com)
South Africa’s Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) has warned that the demand for export containers is likely to be high between April and October this year. This is due to the fact that citrus growers and deciduous and subtropical exporters will during this period compete strongly for available containers.
The CGA noted that the forecast for the season and the equipment required to service export markets had been discussed with port authorities for some time, as well as with shipping lines. Further investigation identified the global challenge in the repositioning of reefer equipment to where it is most needed.
“Since there is such a high demand for general freight movement out of China to the US, South America and EU; with exorbitant freight rates being charged due to the high demand, (shipping) lines are forgoing allocating space on vessels to reposition reefer containers,” the association continued.
Agribusiness in 2020 and what to expect in 2021 (Farmers Review Africa)
Agriculture showed its resilience and agility in a depressed economy and at the back of COVID-19 with strong growth and good trade results in 2020. The pandemic brought tough trading conditions both domestically and internationally due to lockdown restrictions. Despite these challenges, South Africa’s formal food supply chains remained resilient and functional. In 2020, much of the agricultural sector saw bumper crops, and a reduction in wheat imports and citrus farmers enjoying a big increase in exports were good gains for the industry. The momentum is expected to continue in 2021.
At the aggregate level, the industry was able to record positive growth of 35%, 19.6% and 18.5% (quarter-on-quarter on a seasonally adjusted and annualised basis) during Q1-2020, Q2-2020 and Q3-2020, respectively.
Mineral sales keep breaking records (Moneyweb)
Boosted by signs of a new commodity price super-cycle, South Africa’s mineral sales keep on moving into higher gear, with a new record level having been attained for the first two months of the year.
So far this year, mineral sales have become even more rampant, with a further increase of more than 25% over the 2020 figure. To put the value of mineral sales of R120 billion during January and February into perspective, it is equal to the total output of the agricultural sector in 2020.
A direct consequence of the sterling performance of the mining sector is a handsome cumulative trade surplus for January and February, namely more than R41 billion. An indirect consequence that has an important bearing on the future direction of monetary policy is the impact on the value of the rand exchange rate.
Since 1994, manufacturing has shrunk as a proportion of gross domestic product, from 21.5% to 13.3%, independent organisation Business leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso notes in her weekly newsletter. In part, she says this deindustrialisation stems from a rationalisation of the Apartheid economy, which was inefficiently producing goods behind sanctions barriers.
Kenya sets up team to boost regional aviation hub status (Business Daily)
Kenya has established a multi-sectoral committee to reinforce the efficiency and security of its international air services as it positions itself as a regional hub.Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia said the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority will host the secretariat of the team to be known as the National Air Transport Facilitation Committee whose members will include officers from the security and intelligence agencies as well as the Immigration Services Department, the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Tourism Board.
The team will be tasked with developing and reviewing policies relating to clearance formalities applied to international air transport services, ensuring the development and implementation of the National Air Transport Facilitation Programme besides ensuring that passengers, cargo and mail are cleared through airports in line with ICAO standards and best international practices.
The government has hired a US lobbying and public relations firm as it pushes to conclude trade agreement with Washington. Rational 360, whose partners and senior employees consist of veterans of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, will “serve as a government relations manager…which will consist generally of relationship-building with government and non-governmental officials, and communications counsel and management services”.
The one-year contract, which started on April 12, will see the Kenyan taxpayer fork out $600,000 (Sh64.5 million), paid at Sh16.1 million every three months.
Private sector welcomes Kenya-Uganda trade deal (Daily Monitor)
After six days of joint mission verification of the sugar sub-sector, a decision to allow Uganda’s sugar exports access to the Kenyan market was last Thursday collectively endorsed, bringing to an end about three years of brewing trade hostilities between the two countries. Private sector players are now hoping that the two governments will quickly implement what they jointly agreed upon in a communique they both endorsed. When contacted yesterday, Mr Jim Kabeho, the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association chairperson, noted that the two government must go beyond words as contained in the joint communique and enforce the agreed position. “We have been here before and nothing happened thereafter. This is not the first verification mission conducted. About two or so years ago, similar activities were done and here we are again pretty much doing the same thing,” Mr Kabeho said. “The good news is that the Kenyans have established for themselves that we have surplus sugar as demonstrated by raw cane from Uganda that ends up in their country. They have also noticed that more sugar processors have opened up shop, an indication that we have the capacity to produce surplus sugar. So what is important is to implement the communique and we are ready to fulfil our quota of 90,000 metric tonnes annually as agreed,” he added.
Kenya, Uganda agree on ceasefire in trade war (The East African)
Kenya and Uganda have reached an agreement to resolve the persistent trade dispute between them following a seven-day visit by officials from Nairobi to Kampala. Led by Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industry Betty Maina, the Kenyan officials visited Uganda from April 11 to discuss non-tariff barriers (NTBs) affecting trade between the two countries and verify the Ugandan sugar industry to ensure that exports of the product into Kenya are wholly produced in Uganda. Under the new framework of trade co-operation, Kenya will import up to 90,000 metric tonnes of Ugandan sugar per year and, from July 1, when the new financial year begins, abolish a 35 percent excise duty on liquid petroleum gas cylinders manufactured in Uganda.
Traders defy Ugandan poultry products import ban (Business Daily)
Kenyan traders are still importing poultry products from Uganda despite a ban imposed in January. Through a memo issued to stakeholders, the Directorate of Veterinary Services stopped all chicken, meat and egg importation to cushion local producers amid low demand from restaurants and eateries following Covid-19 economic disruption. Importers have, however, found ways to import the products into the country, defying the ban and leading to an outcry from local producers who were hoping to ride on the reduced competition to stay afloat during the Covid-19 restriction period.
Economic recovery to remain subdued, BoU maintains CBR (Daily Monitor)
Bank of Uganda has said the economy will remain subdued even as there has been gradual recovery in the first quarter of 2021. Speaking during the release of the April Monetary Policy report in Kampala yesterday, Bank of Uganda said the Central Bank Rate would be maintained at 7 per cent, for the fourth month, to support economic recovery and encourage a reduction in commercial bank lending rate. Mr Mutebile also noted that there was need to slow down the growth of the country’s debt through fiscal adjustment. Debt remains a challenge, which continues to dampen growth prospects with a lot of money spent to debt and interest repayment.
Local firms not ready for AfCFTA – BB (Mmegi Online)
Business Botswana (BB) is concerned that the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, will not be fully exploited by local businesses. The agreement is expected to give Batswana the opportunity to benefit from inter-regional trade within the African continent, and greatly contribute to the growth and diversification of the country’s economy. However, briefing the media this week, BB president Gobusamang Keebine said the local manufacturing industry is not ready for the export market. “There are only a handful of local businesses who will participate, as most of them are not export-ready. Government should consider involving the private sector about these bilateral agreements before signing them,” he said.
The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) started using digital tax stamps (DTSs) on cement and sugar earlier this month as East Africa banks on technology to boost public revenue collections. Uganda becomes the fourth country among the member states of the East African Community (EAC) to adopt digital stamps in deliberate efforts to plug revenue leakage loopholes. Digital stamps enable the government to use modern technology to obtain real time production data from manufacturers. This aids the government in curbing revenue leakages and also in determining in advance the amount of tax to be paid as excise duty, value-added tax and income tax.
The adoption of DTSs on Uganda’s sugar and cement followed an engagement that country’s taxman had with manufacturers of sugar and cement last month. Actual rollout on the two products was implemented on April 1, 2021, according to media reports.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance and The Canada-Africa Chamber of Business announce a Memorandum of Association with the aim to promote, support and facilitate bilateral trade and investment opportunities from Canada into Kenya. The Second Session of the Binational Commission meeting between Kenya and Canada is being held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 13th to the 15th of April 2021. Subject to renewal, the session saw the signing of a three-year agreement Memorandum of Association. ‘Nairobi is a vital gateway not just to Kenya and the region, but the continent’s economies of the future in Africa,’ Said Garreth Bloor, President of the Canada-Africa Chamber of Business.
Nigeria says that majority of its ports have been digitalised a move that is aimed at enhancing efficiency while reducing corruption cases. Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) says that ports in Nigeria are now 70 per cent digitalised. However, Mr Bello regretted that they did not reach the intended target of 90 per cent. “We have been working with shipping companies and terminal operators to ensure we make the deadline we set for the first quarter but we saw it was not feasible to attain 90 per cent digitalisation. “What we were able to do on the average was 70 per cent, but digitisation of the ports is a process in the making. We want this to happen as quickly as possible,” he said.
He said that digitisation would make our ports more competitive, noting that the country had competitors in West and Central Africa sub-regions. Bello said that it was not easy to get to the 70 per cent port digitalisation, adding that they had the scorecards of every terminal and shipping companies that led to the tremendous improvement. Speaking on the level of digitalisation of shipping companies, he said that Grimaldi had 88 per cent, Ocean Network Express 76 per cent, and CMA CGM 63 per cent, among others.
ZIMTRADE has increased its engagements with regional markets to explore opportunities for local products and services, following the commencement of trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area in January this year. The country’s trade promotion organisation is currently conducting a market survey in Tanzania and a pre-mission assessment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The two in-market activities are expected to provide market intelligence that will help Zimbabwean companies get market insights.
The President of the Chartered Institute of Supply Chain Management, Richard Obeng Okrah, has stated that Supply Chain Management will be key in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement. He said this while speaking to the media on the sideline of the event to commemorate World Supply Chain day and its contribution to Industries. According to him, the free trade agreement involves the movement of goods across the various value chains, and supply chain management will be critical in carrying out trade activities. “A lot of attention and jobs are going to be created for Ghana and in this respect supply chain management is a very key component in ensuring that we succeed in our objectives. We are required to move goods from manufacturers to end-users and effective supply chain systems ensure that the planning, transportation, logistics, warehousing and movement to the ultimate consumer is done in a very efficient manner,” he said.
A study commissioned by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC Fund) and conducted by consultants from research and advisory firm Konfidants has exposed gaping challenges the nation is facing with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA). With an emphasis on value-added goods only, the analysis focused on seven product groups that were selected in consultation with industry players and government, namely: agro-processed goods, plastics, pharmaceuticals, mineral oils, textiles, metal manufactures and cosmetics. For each of the above product sectors, the report titled ‘AfCFTA’s Competitiveness and Opportunity Assessment’, analyzed two main segments –external competitiveness and domestic competitiveness– which left much to be desired.
Namibia Exports First 350 Tons of Charcoal to United States (US Embassy in Namibia)
On Friday, U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson joined the Deputy Minister of Industrialisation and Trade Honorable Verna Sinimbo to send off a 350-ton consignment of Namibian charcoal to the United States. The export deal, between Africa Burns Charcoal, King Charcoal, and their U.S. trading partner The Good Charcoal Company, is supported by the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The hybrid launch event in Windhoek, at which many participants joined virtually from the United States, marks the first-ever export of charcoal from Namibia directly to the U.S. market. It also signals the commencement of a trade opportunity that could see Namibia export several thousand tons of premium-grade charcoal to the United States tariff-free each month.
Egypt pays EGP 2.4bn in export subsidy dues: Trade Minister (Daily News Egypt)
Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea announced that the Export Development Fund has provided EGP 2.4bn in subsidy to exporters in implementation of the second phase of the lump-sum export subsidy dues payment initiative. The minister explained that the availability of these financial dues comes as part of the presidential directives to support Egypt’s export sector. She added that paying exporters’ dues will greatly contribute to increasing their production capabilities and enhancing competitiveness of Egyptian products in foreign markets, especially in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
AfDB Supports Modernization of Morocco’s Railway Network (Morocco World News)
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has offered to continue to work to help Morocco in its journey to modernize its railways sector. The company seeks to contribute to improve the mobility of populations and logistical competitiveness through its financing and technical assistance. The AfDB secured €300 million for the National Railways Office (ONCF) to finance the project that is meant to increase the capacity of the Tangier-Marrakech railways line, the bank said in a press release. The funding also facilitated an increase in the number of railways, modernized signaling, built many structures such as the latest Casa Port train station, and constructed the central signaling control post.
Namibia, Botswana sign solar deal (Chronicle)
THE African Development Bank and two World Bank agencies have joined Botswana and Namibia, as the two countries signed a Memorandum of Intent last week towards the development of a 5 000 megawatts solar power project, which will be one of the world’s largest. The AfDB, International Finance Corporation and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development inked the Memorandum of Intent with Botswana, Namibia and Power Africa, a US-government entity aimed at boosting electricity investment in Africa.
Africa’s international cannabis trade is off to a superb start with Lesotho landing a lucrative deal with the European Union (EU). MG Health, a Lesotho cannabis company located deep in the country’s lush mountainous region, has reportedly received the official approval to export its cannabis flower as a pharmaceutical ingredient to the European Union.
African regional and continental news
As countries rebuild their economies following COVID-19, Africa needs to step up productive and infrastructural integration, participants heard at a regional presentation of the African Regional Integration Index (ARII) held virtually on Thursday. The index, a joint publication of the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission, provides up-to-date data on the status of regional integration in Africa and assesses the level of integration for every regional economic community and its member countries. The Index report underlines the need for a renewed commitment to regional integration within Africa, speakers said. They noted that the beginning of trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area in January 2021, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and its disruptive impact on movement and economies, had thrown this into sharper focus.
Pandemic Spurs Demand For Trade Finance Capacity In Africa (Global Finance)
The Covid-19 pandemic has pressured African central banks and market regulators to deepen their engagement with industry, asset managers, and private equity to expand international trade financing capacity including South-South and African trade, concludes a recent report published by the African Export Import Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and Making Finance Work for Africa. The report’s authors recommended greater coordination and alignment regarding pandemic response across the continent. Africa’s trade finance contracted by 10% in 2020 as the continent entered its first recession in 25 years said President of Afreximbank Benedict Oramah during a virtual event for the report’s April 15 release. Africa’s trade finance needs are quite significant and are expected to increase as the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement came into effect beginning in 2021, according to the report’s authors.
AfCFTA, COMESA to establish cooperation framework (Mining Review)
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Secretariat and COMESA will establish a partnership framework to support the implementation of the continental trade regime. Technical teams from the two organizations are expected to start working immediately on the framework by establishing committees to deal with specific aspects of the partnership. This was resolved during the first visit by the Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat Wamkele Mene to the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia.
AfCFTA, UNDP announce new partnership towards inclusive growth in Africa (The Africa Logistics)
The AfCFTA Secretariat and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a strategic partnership to promote trade as a stimulus for Africa’s socioeconomic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and as a driver of sustainable development particularly for women and youth in Africa, in line with the SDGs and Agenda 2063 common vison for the continent.
The agreement was sealed yesterday by the AfCFTA Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Wamkele Mene, accompanied by Ambassador Fatima Mohammed Kyari, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, and by the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa. “The AfCFTA is beyond a trade liberalizing instrument. It is an enabler of inclusive growth and sustainable development,” said Mr. Wamkele Mene, who made the journey to New York for the historic occasion. “We must rebalance Africa’s role in global trade. As African countries implement COVID-19 recovery plans, this collaboration with UNDP will drive momentum, on the ground in AfCFTA state parties, to ensure that women and youth are the leading beneficiaries of the AfCFTA.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to facilitate industrialisation and create a single market for goods and services in Africa. The movement towards broadening regional integration partially through value chains and a free trade area is in line with the path emerging economies have undertaken in the past 10 years.
Implementation of the AfCFTA is under way, yet more action is needed to transform policy into action. AfCFTA Secretary-General HE Wamkele Mene shared these sentiments during the fourth instalment of the AfCFTA and Transformative Industrialisation webinar series hosted by University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance. Mene said that “what is required are a set of harmonised action plans focused on industrial development, to be implemented on a continental basis, a Pan-African basis and in each region”. This is critical if the continent is to move from policy to realising the benefits of regional economic and market integration.
African ambassadors ask diaspora to help promote 54-nation AfCFTA (The Washington Diplomat)
The United Nations predicts AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade by 52% within a year. To capitalize on the accord—which was signed in Rwanda in 2018—The Made Man Foundation (TMM) is hosting a series of gatherings as part of its “100 Days of Action” campaign. The goal: to build a global coalition among African nations and the worldwide diaspora. “There’s a tremendous reservoir of great people. But what has not been possible, and I hope some of us would be able to change that, is building credible relationships,” said Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United States. “I know the role the African diaspora could play, because I’m a product of that diaspora.”
African Airlines Are Finding Ways to Restart Travel Amid Slow Vaccine Rollouts (Condé Nast Traveler)
Vaccine rollouts are well underway, with some countries already nearing benchmarks for so-called herd immunity and starting to reopen to travelers. Other regions of the world, however, have seen a more sluggish inoculation effort. But in those areas, travel providers such as airlines are coming up with other solutions to safely restart travel. Across Africa, for instance, airlines are finding innovative ways to build flier confidence. The continent’s air traffic decreased by 89 percent in 2020 according to the International Air Transport Association, and profits across its airlines dropped by $2 billion USD, but nascent signs of a travel rebound are appearing. “Recovery [of the airline industry] will be much slower in Africa than the rest of the world,” says Adefunke Adeyemi, regional director of advocacy and strategic relations at IATA. “However, Africa is leading the charge in terms of open borders. Fifty countries are currently open on a pre-departure/negative test condition with no quarantine.” African airlines have been instrumental in the effort to open borders as they seek to get passengers back into the air. Some national carriers like Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, and Kenya Airways are aiming to bring fliers back by testing a new digital COVID-19 passport. Called Trusted Travel Pass, the passport was developed by the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is under the African Union, and will allow travelers to authenticate test results prior to departure.
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security. “The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
Competition, political interests killing EAC integration (Independent)
The faltering of the East African member states is an indicator that leaders have to launch a new and comprehensive consultation for solutions that will make it work. The observation was made by professional bodies, economic analysts and government officials in the wake of trade standoffs and political quarrels, amongst EAC member states. Currently, in the region, Uganda is facing trade barriers with Kenya as several Ugandan products like sugar, poultry, milk and grain, are either blocked or restricted by quotas and tariffs. Kenya also accuses Uganda of imposing tariffs on some Kenyan products, even where such products are protected from tariffs by the EAC and COMESA treaties. Some experts have even challenged the importance of regional integration or integration with neighbouring states instead of integrating with countries with which one shares economic interests.
African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in collaboration with FCI has conducted a successful two-day virtual networking event for Africa and the Middle East. The event offered an opportunity for the factoring community to examine how its industry has fared through COVID-19. It brought different industry players together to connect, exchange ideas and do business with partners in Africa and the Middle East.
Highlights of the two-day conference included an address by Ms. Kanayo Awani, Managing Director of Afreximbank’s Intra-African Trade Initiative and Chairperson of FCI’s Africa Chapter during which she discussed the strategies championing factoring as an alternative financing approach for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that cannot obtain traditional bank financing.
“We at Afreximbank wholeheartedly believe that factoring, a form of commercial finance whereby a business sells its accounts receivable at a discount, provides a viable and sustainable solution to address the SME financing gap and will help boost SMEs growth and in turn support Africa’s structural transformation and trade development. Factoring provides an important alternative to other financing sources available for SMEs such as bank loans, leasing, venture capital,” said Ms. Awani.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is working with sister United Nations agencies, bilateral and multilateral partners to align global climate goals to the continent’s action agenda. At the forefront of enhancing national, regional, and continental climate adaptation preparedness and response efforts is Africa’s lead climate think-tank, the ECA’s African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) that is based in Addis Ababa. In the “State of the Global Climate Report” that is being jointly launched today by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, the ECA is delighted to have made extensive contributions touching on the African continent through the ACPC.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, in partnership with German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), has piloted a project on “Aligning Regional and National Aquaculture Strategic Frameworks in SADC” in an effort to strengthen national and regional linkages towards achieving regional integration objectives.
The objective of this project is to ensure alignment between regional and national levels within the context of sustainable aquaculture development in three pilot countries of Botswana, Malawi and Namibia. The pilot project has resulted in the development of aligned strategies, as well as many other interventions and support to national processes aimed to strengthen implementation of the protocol in the respective countries. Further, the three pilot countries are on a path to developing sustainable aquaculture value chains, as spelled out in the aligned national aquaculture strategies.
Global economy news
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, expectations were that seaborne trade, including containerized trade, would experience a strong downturn. However, changes in consumption and shopping patterns triggered by the pandemic, including a surge in electronic commerce, as well as lockdown measures, have in fact led to increased import demand for manufactured consumer goods, a large part of which is moved in shipping containers. As at the third quarter of 2020, lessening of lockdown measures and varying speeds of recovery worldwide, as well as stimulus packages supporting consumer demand, inventory-building and frontloading in anticipation of new waves of the pandemic, contributed to leading to a further increase in containerized trade flows.
Participants in the negotiations are close to agreeing on a set of common disciplines concerning licensing and qualification requirements and procedures as well as technical standards for suppliers of services. The negotiating text contains flexibilities to help governments implement the measures domestically while remaining free to pursue their national policy objectives.
The chair recalled that to date, 31 indicative draft schedules of commitments have been received, covering 57 members. The draft schedules from five participants in the talks are still pending. The chair encouraged those members who have not yet submitted their draft schedules to do so as soon as possible. He emphasized that the exchange of draft schedules is an important element in the negotiations, allowing the group to have a clear and solid basis to approach the next steps in the negotiations.
6 takeaways from WTO’s Aid-for-Trade Stocktaking for least developed countries (Trade for Development News)
Trade has a critical role to play in rebuilding developing and least developed countries’ economies, alleviating rising poverty and creating a greener, more inclusive future for all. This was a unifying theme that ran through three days of panels discussions and debates at the Aid-for-Trade
We all know and feel the devastation of the pandemic. It has been a shared and visceral experience. By the end of 2020, COVID-19 had caused more than 1.5 million deaths and USD 28 trillion in economic losses. The most impacted have been the vulnerable: vulnerable countries, vulnerable populations, the most vulnerable within vulnerable communities.
We have seen the vaccine roll out begin around the world. This gives us hope. However, the disappointment amongst the global South has been tangible as the inequalities that existed before the pandemic are being replicated in the vaccine roll out. Africa has 15% of the global population but only 1% of healthcare expenditure. Whereas some countries have stockpiled vaccines, some least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa and Asia-Pacific have not even begun a vaccination programme.
The right to health is a human right. The right to access vaccines in the midst of a pandemic should also be viewed as such. One lesson learned from the pandemic is that no country wants to be vulnerable because of a lack of an effective health care infrastructure.
People living in the world’s poorest countries, who are particularly at risk of poverty, cannot wait until it becomes possible to provide stable financing for social protection programmes from domestic resources alone. They need such protection right now, especially in light of the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As is well documented, the Covid-19 outbreak has sparked fears of an impending economic crisis and recession of unprecedented proportions. The rippling effects are already being felt across various spheres, as restrictions such as physical distancing, self-isolation and travel bans have led to a reduced workforce across economic sectors and job losses. No sector has been left unscathed, and countries across the world are grappling with ways to respond to the scourge.
Investment Facilitation for Development – A toolkit for policymakers is the latest International Trade Centre publication that showcases the link between discussions happening at the WTO and priorities on the ground. It guides policymakers and negotiators when developing agreements that facilitate sustainable investment into developing countries, and improves coherence at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels. This publication offers insights from WTO discussions and regional agreements, model clauses and practical tips to help governments build their capacity to negotiate and implement investment agreements.
As of April 2021, over 3,600 users representing 55 public, private, and civil society organizations have shared data, making available 740 datasets from road network maps and building footprints to the location of water, gas, and utilities in a secure platform. Mapping vulnerable areas using Geographic Information System (GIS) and making datasets available across agencies is leading to better informed decision-making.
No US confirmation of lifting ban on vaccine raw material exports (Times of India)
Joe Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki has refused to say if the US will allow the export of Covid-19 vaccine raw materials to India, a shortage that could impact global supply or set a timeline for dealing with the requests for relaxing the vaccine patent rights.
At her briefing in Washington on Monday, she sidestepped a question about reports that at a virtual meeting Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar the US had indicated that it was considering the request for lifting the ban of the raw material. She instead spoke about the reaction of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai to the request from India and South Africa for waiving the intellectual property rights for the vaccine, sounding optimistic. “We are, of course, working with WTO members on a global response to Covid. That includes a number of components, whether it’s $4 billion committed to Covax (the international consortium for vaccine distribution), or discussions about how we can aid and assist countries that need help the most.