Magharebia (Casablanca) - 24/06/08
African, Latin American ministers discuss South-South trade
By Hassan Benmehdi
African and South American trade ministers gathered in Marrakesh from June 17th-19th to plan a new framework for trade between the two continents. The conference is part of a larger initiative to stimulate South-South trade under the Abuja Plan.
In the Abuja Declaration - issued at the first Africa-South America Summit in the Nigerian capital in 2006 - leaders of countries in the South agreed to "support and promote mechanisms for increasing inter-regional trade between Africa and South America" and to "improve the dialogue between the public and private sectors of both regions to facilitate and strengthen South-South co-operation".
The countries are also working to secure market access for goods from developing countries and taking an active part in negotiations over the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP).
At the Marrakesh meeting, Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi said that despite Africa and South America’s economic potential, the volume of trade between the two continents remains low. He added that it is time for the countries of the south to demonstrate the political will necessary to remove trade barriers.
Delegates considered the conference a success, saying it addressed the "real issues" regarding the global economic situation - in particular, price rises for raw materials which have had adverse consequences for the inhabitants of southern countries.
At the close of the conference last Thursday, participants issued a new concluding statement and action plan.
In the new "Marrakesh Declaration", African and South American trade ministers confirmed their commitment to the multilateral trade system and to the goals of reform laid out in the Doha Development Agenda, while expressing their concerns over the lack of progress in the Doha negotiations.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and implementing the results of the 12th ministerial session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The leaders also agreed to improve and harmonise their positions within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to further the South-South trade initiative, by focusing on problems of transportation and logistics, the diversification of exported goods and reasonable reductions of tariffs.
According to UNCTAD, South-South trade rose from $577 billion in 1995 to over $2 trillion in 2006, equating to 17% of worldwide trade. African exports to southern countries tripled between 1995 and 2005.
At the Marrakesh conference, Delfino Bonald, an expert from UNCTAD, said the GSTP has had a positive impact on trade between developing countries.
Khalid Sayah, chief of the Moroccan delegation, said the GSTP allows for deregulation between developing countries at a time when the Doha negotiations have broken down and the cost of raw materials worldwide is rising.
Membership in the GSTP is restricted to states belonging to the G77. At present, 43 countries including Morocco are active members.