Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

COP27 news

Next Africa: Climate Hopes in the Balance in Last Hours of COP27 (Bloomberg)

African nations came into this month’s COP27 international climate summit in Egypt with high hopes. They may yet leave empty handed. With the event taking place on the continent for the first time since 2016, it was dubbed the “implementation COP.”

But as the event draws to a close, little progress has been made in mapping out how rich nations will honor a promise to provide $100 billion in annual climate finance for developing nations. Neither has much ground been made on honoring a pledge to double funding for adapting to changing weather by 2025.

A proposal that Africa’s “special needs and circumstances” be considered didn’t make it onto the agenda. And another to set up a facility to compensate poor nations hit by climate disasters hangs in the balance.

Progress on that issue, included on the COP agenda for the first time, has been slowed by demands from Africa and other developing regions that a separate fund be created. That’s been resisted by the industrialized world, which is wary of a slew of demands and would rather existing facilities be used.

‘Stand and deliver’, urges UN Secretary-General as divides threaten COP27 negotiations ahead of deadline (UN News)

“There is clearly a breakdown in trust between North and South, and between developed and emerging economies. This is no time for finger-pointing. The blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction,” António Guterres told journalists at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Conference Centre. The UN chief urged countries to deliver the kind of meaningful action that people, and the planet, so desperately need. “The world is watching and has a simple message: stand and deliver,” he underscored.

Mr. Guterres reminded world leaders that global emissions are at their highest levels in history, and climate impacts are decimating economies and societies. “The most effective way to rebuild trust is by finding an ambitious and credible agreement on loss and damage and financial support to developing countries. The time for talking on loss and damage finance is over. We need action,” he stated, urging negotiators to deliver concrete solutions to resolve one of the thorniest issues on the table at this year’s COP, or Conference of Parties, to the UN climate convention.

For the first time in the history of UN climate conferences, the issue of loss and damage has been included in the official agenda.

The creation of a new financial facility to compensate for the losses suffered by vulnerable countries hit hardest by natural disasters, is a key demand by the negotiating bloc known as the Group of the 77, which represents nearly all developing countries.

COP27: Developing Countries Call For ‘Urgent Political Will’ To Establish Loss and Damage Fund (The Wire)

As time runs out for critical decisions to be made at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), ministers from several developing countries called out the “worrying inaction” on the part of developed countries in establishing a loss and damage fund as promised at last year’s summit.

In an impromptu press conference on November 17 at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, leaders representing the G77 and China, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) said that developed countries should show the “political will” to deliver on finance for loss and damages caused by the impacts of climate change, which many developing countries are having to face despite not contributing to carbon emissions as much. Despite the late hour, they were ready to sit down and establish a consensus on this to move forward, they said.

A separate fund to meet the losses and damages caused by the impacts of climate change (including extreme weather events such as floods and droughts) in developing countries was – for the first time – included as an agenda item in the COP this year. However, there was worrying inaction on the part of some developed countries to follow this through, said ministers representing several blocs of developing countries.

COP27: African ministers explore ways to scale up food production to feed the continent, bolster resilience (AfDB)

African agriculture ministers attending the United Nations climate summit in Egypt reiterated a commitment to work with development partners to unlock the continent’s agriculture potential. During the special ministerial session, there was a strong consensus that Africa can feed itself if supported with green financing and climate-smart technology to boost agriculture productivity.

Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Agriculture, said, “We must be sovereign in our countries’ fight against food insecurity and the best way is to find funding for agriculture. We must adapt and find solutions to our problems in the face of the disasters we have seen here and there: droughts, floods, cyclones, and so on.”

He added that disruptions associated with the war in Ukraine should provide an impetus for Africa to readapt its agriculture to achieve food sovereignty.

EBRD, AfDB and AFD launch tool to support private businesses and public sector improve gender responsiveness (AfDB)

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the African Development Bank Group and the French development agency AFD, in partnership with the Egyptian government, have launched the Gender Equality in Climate Action Accelerator. The Accelerator will support private sector companies improve the gender responsiveness of their corporate climate governance. It will also help governments to promote gender-sensitive climate sector policies, thereby accelerating their green transition to meet Paris Agreement targets, the UNFCCC’s gender action plan and key Sustainable Development Goals.

The launch ceremony took place on Gender Day, Monday, 14 November, on the sidelines of the 27th annual global climate summit (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It brought together global leaders, heads of development finance institutions and private sector business representatives.

Egypt has called the global community to action on gender equality in climate action, stating that now was the time to show progress on the ground.

50% of countries highly affected by climate change are in Africa: Patrick Low (GhanaWeb)

Many African countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, Mozambique, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Eritrea, Algeria, Sudan, Benin, Rwanda, Chad, Kenya, and Libya have been counted among thirty (30) countries globally that are facing threats of the effect of climate change.

It is reported that these countries are being impacted by negative effects of climate change such as droughts, floods risk, storms, rising sea levels affecting low-lying areas and coastal cities, melting glaciers, water shortages, declining crop yields, especially in tropical zones, food crises, ocean acidification from rising CO2 levels among others.

These negative effects are leading to the destruction of tropical forests, forest fires, Malnutrition and heat stress, spread of vector-borne disease e.g., malaria, dengue fever etc., Physical displacement of populations and risks of mass migrations, Damage to ecosystems and species extinction, Sudden shifts in weather patterns and many more problems that are confronting humanity and the environment.

Thus, international economist and a member of tralac Advisory Board who is also a former Chief Economist at the Word Trade Center, Patrick Low has challenged African countries to seize the opportunity of the ongoing COP 27 in Egypt to concentrate on Green Growth to improve competitiveness and enhance access in big markets.

Addressing the 2022 tralac Annual Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Patrick Low who currently serves as a fellow of the Asia Global Institute emphasized that there is the need for a clear and united African position to addressing the climate issues affecting the continent considering the fact that Africa’s population will double by 2050.

New UNCTAD Publications

Carbon pricing: A development and trade reality check

Making trade work for climate change mitigation: The case of technical regulations

Tackling debt and climate challenges in tandem: A policy agenda

Local news

South Africa Gauge Signals Poor Start to Final-Quarter Economic Growth (Bloomberg)

An index measuring South African economic transactions fell to a 10-month low in October after a strike at the state-owned port and rail operator hobbled exports, suggesting a weak start to the final quarter. The BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index, which tracks interbank payments, dropped to 130.7 from a revised 131 in September, signaling ongoing strain in the economy, independent economist Elize Kruger said in a statement.

Measures to restricting trade of waste scrap and metals (Devdiscourse)

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele says Cabinet has considered and approved a comprehensive package of measures to address damage to public infrastructure and the economy by restricting the trade of waste scrap and semi processed metals. The Minister hosted a briefing in Pretoria on Friday following this week’s Cabinet meeting. He said the meeting considered the policy measures to restrict trade in scrap metal to limit damage to public infrastructure and the economy.

Meanwhile, the Minister said Infrastructure South Africa, in partnership with GIZ, a German development agency, will host its third Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa (SIDSSA) in Cape Town, from 28 to 30 November 2022.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in South Africa has been researching green hydrogen with a focus on green mobility and the use of platinum group metals. “Cabinet approved the Hydrogen Society Roadmap earlier this year. The roadmap is one of government’s strategies and policy direction aimed at bringing together a variety of public and private stakeholders and institutions around a common vision on how to use and deploy hydrogen and hydrogen-related technologies, as part of the country’s economic development and greening objectives,” he said.

South Africa can reduce emissions and create jobs. A tough task, but doable (The Conversation)

South Africa has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of unemployment and inequality in the world. It is also one of the world’s most emissions-intensive economies, measured in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output. The co-existence of high unemployment and high emissions intensity is not a coincidence. South Africa’s history of segregation and apartheid has had profound implications for its development path. Choices were made that favoured investment in capital rather than labour. Economic growth was based, in part, on cheap (coal-based) energy, overlooking its high emissions.

Coal has been the dominant fuel in South Africa’s energy economy. In addition to coal-fired power, about 30% of liquid fuel supply comes from converting coal to liquid, a technology employed by the energy company Sasol. The political economy of energy supply, then, is dominated by a duopoly – the state power utility Eskom, and Sasol. Significant actors include coal mining firms upstream and electricity-intensive industry downstream. South Africa’s emission intensity (emissions per unit of output) in 2018 was 2.5 times the global average. That’s about five times higher than in the US. Four-fifths of emissions are attributable to energy supply and use.

South Africa has experienced frequent power outages since 2006. Many older coal plants have failing units mainly because of insufficient maintenance. Even the new power stations, Medupi and Kusile, have not operated consistently because of design flaws. This would suggest a compelling case to build generation capacity fast. Wind and solar photovoltaic projects have short lead times. Yet these proposals have met resistance. A programme to procure renewable energy from independent power producers is widely considered a success. Renewable energy has grown rapidly but it is still a relatively small share of electricity generated. The country needs a much faster pace of investment to achieve a just energy transition.

Trade ministry to launch free trade implementation strategy (New Era)

The industrialisation and trade ministry is scheduled to launch the National African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation Strategy and its Action Plan on 21 November 2022. The ministry will also conduct a training workshop on the status of the AfCFTA negotiations and the Women and Youth Protocol, at the Windhoek Country Club on 22 November 2022.Namibia signed the AfCFTA Agreement on 2 July 2018 and deposited the instruments of ratification on 1 February 2019. This means the country is set to participate in the AfCFTA, particularly offering opportunities for economic diversification and value chains development and expansion to achieve economic transformation.

According to ministerial spokesperson, Elijah Mukubonda the AfCFTA is integrating gender equality into states’ trade policies through their strategies for AfCFTA implementation in response to gender equality.

Farmers reap from historic maize price as crisis looms (Business Daily)

The high cost of the staple at the peak of harvesting comes as a boom to farmers but portends difficult times for consumers who have to contend with the high cost of flour. The high prices of the staple come at a time when Kenya faces one of the worst famines with more than half of the counties now crossing to the acute drought stage and 5.1 million people in need of food relief.

Whereas the selling price is impressive, the total production in the ongoing crop season is expected to drop at least three million to 34 million bags. This implies that the available stocks expected this year will last for nine months and Kenya will have to rely on cross-border imports to meet the deficit.

The decline will add pressure on available food and is likely to worsen the situation given that the traditional source markets for Kenya-Uganda and Tanzania have found alternative markets for their crop in South Sudan and the United Arab Emirates where they fetch a good price.

Rwanda-Uganda trade on the rise, new figures show (The New Times)

Rwanda and Uganda are seeing a significant surge in trade nine months after the two neighbours moved to assuage tensions, it has emerged. Trade between the two landlocked East African nations had taken a hit from three years of border inactivity before Rwanda reopened the Gatuna border crossing as ties improved.

According to new figures from Rwanda Revenue Authority, at least 160 trucks are cleared between the common borders a day, with some 1000 people crossing. EABC chief executive John Bosco Kalisa urged harmonisation of domestic taxes across the EAC region to “avoid distortion and create a level playing field for businesses”.

Duty-free GMO maize imports kick off today to tame inflation (Business Daily)

The government will from today allow the importation of duty-free genetically modified maize in renewed efforts to curb the runaway inflation that has engulfed the country. Trade Cabinet secretary Moses Kuria said yesterday that imports of duty-free GMO maize would last for the next six months in a window the State expects to net 10 million bags. The shipments are expected to plug the gap triggered by reduced harvest in the wake of prolonged drought, which pushed the cost of the staple maize flour to rise to an average of Sh190 in October for the two-kilogramme packet from Sh130 at the start of the year.

The costly maize flour together with fuel and other food items has led to Kenya’s monthly inflation rising to a 65-month high of 9.6 per cent in October, squeezing household budgets and demand for goods and services.

The increase in the cost of essential commodities has forced workers to cut back spending on non-essential items such as beer and airtime, ultimately hurting firms like East Africa Breweries Limited and Safaricom.

Ethiopia Begins Exporting Power to Kenya (East African Business Week)

Ethiopia has started exporting electricity to neighboring Kenya following a week of testing of a new transmission line, Ethiopian Electric Power said. The $500 million line has capacity to transmit 2,000 megawatts of electricity, potentially earning Ethiopia as much as $100 million annually. “Ethiopia has completed activities to ensure uninterrupted and reliable transmission of power and it is expected that similar activities will be implemented by Kenyan side,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Egypt-AU bilateral trade jumps 38% in 2021 – CAPMAS (ZAWYA)

The trade exchange value between Egypt and the African Union (AU) member countries hiked by 38.20% year-on-year (YoY) in 2021.Egypt exported goods to the AU states at a value of $5.48 billion in 2021, an annual leap of 37.70% from $3.98 billion, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Meanwhile, the Arab Republic’s imports from the AU nations jumped by 39.40% to $1.99 billion in 2021, compared to $1.43 billion in 2020.

African trade and integration

Africans advised to leverage on AfCFTA and trade in basic agric products to ensure food security (GhanaWeb)

Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), H.E. Wamkele Mene is advising Africans to develop agricultural food value chains, eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in basic agricultural products and take advantage of the AfCFTA to achieve food security in Africa and uplift smallholder farmers and place them along the value chain of agriculture and agro-processing.

Speaking to International Economists and Trade Lawyers at the 2022 annual tralac conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, the AfCFTA Secretary General recounted the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent conflict situation between Russia and Ukraine as an eye-opener for Africa that should galvanized African governments, since 30% inflation has resulted from the Russia-Ukraine conflict alone, leading to food insecurity in Africa as there is about 70% reliance on grains from Ukraine and Russia in spite of the fact Africa has over 60% of the world’s arable land.

“These two events are indeed in terms of magnitude have compelled the African Continent to rethink its place in the global order and to rethink how trade can be deployed to respond to such prices”.

African Women Entrepreneurs Call for Support of Africa Free Trade (VOA)

African women entrepreneurs from 35 countries have called for more support from lenders and governments to help them benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area. Meeting in Cameroon’s capital for the U.N.-sponsored African Women Entrepreneur Forum, the women say their businesses are mostly small, informal, and suffer discrimination.

Former Interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza spoke Wednesday night at the forum. She said many women are missing out on the opportunities of trade integration because their small businesses have low productivity and get little or no funding from governments and lenders. Women entrepreneurs say they often face harassment and discrimination in Africa’s male-dominated trade.

Bissso Nakatuma says women who want to export their farm produce and benefit from opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area are targeted by customs and police officers who want bribes. Nakatuma says women are forced to depend on their families and communities to fund their businesses because banks refuse to give loans to female investors.

ATEX, a boost for intra-Africa trade (UNECA)

African countries should use the innovative Africa Exchange Trade Platform (ATEX) and boost digital trade in critical commodities under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). ATEX is a digital business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) exchange platform developed by ECA and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the AfCFTA Secretariat.

“ATEX will certainly avail access to essential commodities at affordable prices to African countries that look set to be hit the hardest by the global food price crisis with severe implications on economic and political stability,” Ms. Hanan Morsy, Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said at the presentation of the Africa Exchange Trade Platform (ATEX) on the sidelines of COP27 at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Opening the discussion session on “Finance for climate resilient trade and Africa Trade Exchange ATEX: Pathways toward a Greener Africa”, DES Morsy emphasized that the ATEX platform was an opportunity for African countries to collaborate in boosting commodity trade as a response to the multiple challenges of climate, fertilizer and food crisis.

Opening the discussion session on “Finance for climate resilient trade and Africa Trade Exchange ATEX: Pathways toward a Greener Africa”, DES Morsy emphasized that the ATEX platform was an opportunity for African countries to collaborate in boosting commodity trade as a response to the multiple challenges of climate, fertilizer and food crisis.

“Africa needs to leverage the AfCFTA and available climate financing to enhance the resilience of the African food system and mitigate vulnerability to disruptions in global food supply,” said Ms. Morsy.

Standard Bank Launches Second Edition of Africa Trade Barometer (East African Business Week)

Standard Bank has shared the results of the second edition of its Africa Trade Barometer. Two quarters after the inaugural edition, the second edition of the Africa Trade Barometer tracks changes, both favourable and otherwise, in the opinions of businesses trading in and between 10 African economies. “The ability to report changing sentiment over time will position the Africa Trade Barometer as the continent’s leading trade and tradability insight tool, both for African businesses as well as those seeking to do business with Africa,” says Philip Myburgh, Head of Trade and Africa-China at Standard Bank

Themes examined include views on growth prospects, business confidence as well as opportunities and challenges. Survey results also report on current performance, Covid-19 impact and sentiment on future business investment. In addition, the Africa Trade Barometer shares the views of businesses involved in Africa-China trade and, while recording the impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, also details the effects of non-tariff barriers.

The second edition also highlights the strong link between effective governance and business confidence and growth.

Rwanda among countries to pilot single air space market (The New Times)

Rwanda has been chosen among 17 countries that are set to participate in an implementation pilot project of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). The development, experts say, adds momentum to Africa’s bid for open skies. According to the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the selected countries fulfill “necessary requirements.”

Speaking to The New Times in an exclusive interview, Emmanuel Butera, Consumer Protection Specialist at AFCAC, said Rwanda’s investment in the air transport industry will bear fruit as the national carrier, RwandAir, expands.

Provided there is reduction in the cost of travel with the implementation of SAATM, Butera argues, RwandAir could use the chance for route network expansion.

“This implies that free movement of goods and services across borders of member states hence a wider, harmonized, and more competitive African market,” he added.

EAC needs to tap into commercial agriculture to address food security, Lobby group affirms (Garowe Online)

The East African Business Council (EABC) has called upon the heads of state within the East Africa Community region to embrace commercial agriculture in order to address food insecurity facing the region. According to John Kalisa, EABC -Chief Executive Officer, the agricultural sector saved the EAC from recession during the height of Covid-19. Mr. Kalisa was addressing the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) forum in a virtual meeting held on Wednesday. He further added that the sector has not attracted much investment to match its critical role in the economy of the region. The EAC countries were also urged to ensure their agricultural development programs were compliant with CAADP principles.

Mr. Kalisa “EAC partner states should enhance investment financing in agriculture “to boost food production, supply, and trade.”

African e-commerce growth holds opportunities, but also challenges for brands (Engineering News)

Commercial brands operating in Africa can use e-commerce platforms and logistics chains to diversify their businesses to better serve their customers, but this requires that they are able to manage the quality of the experience over any communications and delivery channels they use, cloud communications platform company Infobip’s executives shared during a roundtable discussion on November 17. Africa has a growing and youthful population and growing penetration of mobile and digital devices and connectivity throughout the continent. With this growth, there is significant potential for the region, said Infobip Africa go-to-market manager Jeremy Osborne.

ICSOE 2022 forum underlines the urgent need for accelerated diversification in Central and Eastern Africa (UNECA)

The joint Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts meeting organised by two offices of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Central and Eastern Africa, in collaboration with the Government of Seychelles was held (ICSOE) on 15-17 November in Mahe Seychelles.

A diversified approach to our economies will help African countries navigate a variety of different environments,” says Jean Luc Mastaki, acting Director of ECA in Central Africa, while discussing the uncertainty around the current inflationary scenario. Mama Keita, Director of ECA in Eastern Africa also stressed that “Diversification can stand a better chance of delivering resilient economies and better performance in changing and unstable environments”.

The meeting was held under the theme “Strengthening resilience, economic growth and diversification in a context of instability and shocks: the role of Special Economic Zones, innovative financing, tourism and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).”

Protecting nature to drive development: how Africa can be a nature-positive superpower (CNBCAfrica)

With an abundance of land, natural capital and a growing, young population, Africa is undoubtedly the nature-positive economic superpower of the world. The protection of Africa’s nature could drive development across the entire continent. A nature-positive economy is regenerative and brings widespread economic opportunity including youth employment while protecting biodiversity. With access to the global voluntary carbon market; valuing and commercializing nature assets could unlock new financing opportunities for development for the Africa. This market, operating with integrity, equity and transparency, could help Africa deliver on three fronts: nature, climate and development.

West Africa’s climate strategy breaks new ground but is vague (Eco-Business)

“In building climate-resilient communities, the strategy failed to indicate institutional frameworks for implementation, mentioning only partners and/or stakeholders… The text needs improvement [on this front],” Sambou told China Dialogue. “It is also necessary to have an ECOWAS climate secretariat to ensure effective and efficient implementation.”

Eguegu points out that the strategy does not specifically address the problems caused by climate change in the region. Rather, attention is paid to bureaucratic issues such as partnership and competence building.

While the ECOWAS Regional Climate Strategy falls short on a number of fronts, it has for the first time brought all 15 member states of the bloc onto one page in responding to climate change.

Global economy

UN chief welcomes renewal of Black Sea Grain Initiative (UN News)

More than 11.1 million tonnes of essential foodstuffs have been shipped as part of the agreement involving Türkiye, Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations, since it was signed on 22 July. Speaking from Cairo, where Mr. Guterres was en route from the G20 summit in Bali to the COP 27 climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh, he said in a video tweet that he was “deeply moved” and grateful that an agreement had been reached in Istanbul. The UN chief also expressed his deep commitment to remove the “remaining obstacles to the unimpeded exports of Russian food and fertilizers”, as these remain “essential” to avoid a food crisis next year.

India has the best international trade prospects among top 10 economies: S&P (Business Insider India)

Among the group of top 10 economies, the most positive prospects in terms of international trade are related to India and the country does not seem to be impacted by the global economic slowdown to a large extent, S&P Global Market Intelligence said in its latest Global Trade Monitor report. The top 10 economies by GDP in 202, according to the report, include the US, EU27, mainland China, Japan, the UK, India, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, and Russia. These countries are responsible for approximately four-fifths of the world GDP and three-quarters of global exports, with most trade carried out within the group. The section in the report on expectations for international trade in the next months said the global economic slowdown now is more and more visible.

The consequences of the global economic slowdown are not that apparent in the monthly data for 2022 as in the first three quarters of the year, the dynamics of exports and imports were relatively strong in the top 10 economies.

“This should translate in still positive growth in 2022 from the yearly perspective, yet in 2023 global trade contraction may be expected. GTAS Forecasting expects trade recovery to start in 2024, returning to the long-term stable growth path,” it added.

Slumping freight rates struggle to entice more containerized metal trade (Fastmarkets news)

Shipping markets throughout 2021 were characterized by stronger demand causing an acute shortage of boxes, leading to a sharp rise in freight costs for metal market participants.

But the tide has changed dramatically in the second half of 2022, with global shipping giant Maersk noting last week that rising inflation has led to consumers spending less on “non-discretionary items such as furniture and home appliances. “Container head haul and regional export volumes fell by 9.3% year on year in September, according to Container Trade Statistics, as quoted by key shipping industry body BIMCO. Volumes into North America fell by 20.6% year on year in the same month.

Empty containers are now piling up in port depots, according to various media reports, and although metal market participants are experiencing far greater ease in obtaining boxes, they are being prevented from taking full advantage of the situation by the low demand for metals.

What If Deglobalization Is Good for Emerging Markets? (Bloomberg)

Four trends are set to shape the world in the decades ahead: energy cost differentials, rising wages in China, nearshoring supply chains, and remote work. For emerging countries with the right natural resources and institutions, that means an opportunity to accelerate up the income ladder. Potential beneficiaries include Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, as well as Malaysia and the Philippines. Why these countries? They combine most of the ingredients of success: access to cheap energy, an abundant labor force, free trade with large parts of the global economy, and the ability to attract talent.

Will the World Trade Organisation pass the COVID “test”? (Observer Research Foundation)

The TRIPS Agreement aims at establishing minimum standards of intellectual property rights, with a scope covering all products and processes in all technologies. The length of patent protection is 20 years with exceptions limited to very specific cases. Provisions in the agreement that protect intellectual property are specific, binding, and actionable.

The Agreement has been controversial from its very origin, particularly in the health context, because it was designed primarily to benefit Big Pharma and other industries and their patent regimes.

More than two decades after the WTO’s Doha Round, the TRIPS Agreement has come into effect even for the least developed countries, who were, at that time,given a waiver during a grace implementation period of over a decade.

A key question today is whether the WTO can pass the COVID-19 “test”, which, by all serious accounts, it has, thus far, failed. This is most clearly evidenced by the dilution of the joint India–South Africa TRIPS waiver proposal (October 2020), which relied on Article IX of the WTO Agreement to address shortages of products required for the prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19. This proposal, made to the WTO TRIPS Council, suggested that the application of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement be waived for the duration of the pandemic to facilitate wider access to technologies necessary for the production of vaccines and medicines.


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