Doha Round can level trading field – Lamy

The Post, Zambia, February 24, 2011

Conclusion of the Doha round will help level the playing field for Africa and correct historical injustices in the global trade rulebook, says WTO director general Pascal Lamy.

The Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda is the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade organization which commenced in November 2001 and its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, which allow countries to increase trade globally.

As of 2008, talks have stalled over a divide on major issues such as agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers, services and trade remedies.

Officiating at a launch of CUTS International’s latest publication on Agriculture in Africa in Switzerland on Tuesday, Lamy stated that the book had responded positively to the issues surrounding Africa becoming a net-food importer.

He stated that Africa became a net-food importer in the 1980s when the prices of its key commodity exports failed and its agriculture slowed down resulting in the current food trade deficit of around US$20 billion.

“It is vital to understand how Africa moved from being a net-food exporter to being a net-importer but the goal of this discussion is not how to bring Africa back to export supremacy. Rather, the goal should be to see how African agriculture can become more efficient can become more efficient and competitive. Efficiency and self-sufficiency are two different concepts,” Lamy stated.

He observed that a country could have a perfectly efficient and competitive agricultural system but still be an importer of food.

“Europe, for example, exports nine per cent of the world’s food, and imports 12 per cent, so being a food export powerhouse does not preclude being a major importer too and the same for Africa that needs to become more efficient, and in that efficiency it needs to discover specialization since it will make no sense it will make no sense for Africa to produce everything for itself,” Lamy stated.

He stated that the publication had demonstrated that import-substitution policies and lack of investment in agriculture have been the principal culprits.

“In my view, the Doha Round can make a modest contribution to helping lift Africa’s agriculture. It will give least developed countries duty-free, quota-free, access to export markets,” stated Lamy.