Africa Notes: Africa and the WTO

Regardless of the Doha Round’s continued stumbles, the WTO is alive and relevant. In fact, its dispute settlement system handled more new disputes in 2012 than in a decade or more (World Trade Law).

African states continue to stay engaged with the institution. Only one African state is involved in the new disputes. South Africa is a respondent to Brazil’s complaint about SA’s anti-dumping duties on Brazilian chicken(tralac). But Ethiopia is reportedly set to finally join that organization as a member in 2014 (tralac). And African states have put forward two important nominees to head the organization (WTO). John Alan Kyeremanten is Ghana’s nominee and has apparently received some support from the AU. There may be a question about how serious he is about this posting, though, as reports surfaced recently about him making a bid for Ghana’s presidency in 2016 (GBC News). Kenya’s nominee is Amina Mohamed, currently a top UN executive official. Kenya’s decision to put forward its own nominee was controversial at the continental level as it disrupted Ghana’s hope to have their candidate be the sole African candidate (GBN). Indeed, it is possible to think that this will effectively split the African vote and hurt either candidate’s chance at getting the top job. However, there are those who suggest this might be Africa’s “turn” (SAIIA). The candidates are due to be formally introduced to the General Council next week. A final decision by WTO members is due by May 31st.

Some African states may be eyeing Russia as a trade partner with renewed interest following its accession to the WTO last year (ICTSD). Commodities like sugar may do well, and some analysts say small exporters will benefit from the leveled playing field the rules-based system provides.

Many African countries are likely to benefit (or at least receive funds) from the WTO’s Aid for Trade Initiative which has reportedly raised $200bn (not all of that goes to Africa) (mb.com).

Despite all of this engagement and interest, the Doha Round’s failings have had a clear impact on perceptions regarding the ability of the WTO to support a pro-development agenda. One of the more recent signs of this is Oxfam’s decision to drop trade as a core issue in its new “If” campaign, which apparently is replacing its Make Poverty History campaign (Duncan Green).

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