WTO Celebrating 20th Anniversary in Morocco

The World Trade Organization has chosen Marrakesh, its birth place, to celebrate its 20th anniversary through the organization this April 8-9 of a high-level conference on the topic “WTO 20 years: celebrating successes, meeting challenges to come.”

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The conference, to be attended by the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and some 40 African Trade Ministers, will mainly review the results of Africa’s twenty year participation in the multilateral trading system. It will also ponder on African countries’ priorities and expectations in relation to the working program being designed in preparation for the resumption of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations and the holding of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the WTO slated to be held in Kenya in mid-December 2015.

Participants will assess at the level of several panels the WTO 20 years of existence, survey the multilateral trading system from Marrakech to Nairobi, review the challenges and opportunities of the agreement on trade facilitation, and analyze the impact of agriculture, as a pillar for economic and social development in Africa.

Other topics will cover Entrepreneurship and International Trade: how to release initiatives and foster growth; Africa put to the test of globalization (WTO contribution to growth and employment in Africa, integration of the Least Developed Countries in the global value chains, Africa’s industrialization; trade in services: a driver of growth.)

Participants will also review means of strengthening production and export capacities for a better integration of Africa into the world economy with focus on investment in infrastructure, the role of aid for trade and economic partnerships in Africa’s economic transformation process, the role of investment and technology transfer in supporting African value chains development, trade and human capital development, and the role of trade in accelerating growth and integration.

It is not surprising to see the WTO pick up Morocco to host the event, as the North African country, a founding member of the WTO, has always advocated strong coordination of the positions of the organization’s African members and has tirelessly endeavored to promote inter-African trade and financial cooperation.

Since the signature of the Marrakesh Act in 1994 by the 127 founder member countries, some 34 new members have joined the organization whose rules manage over 98% of world trade.

“Over the years the WTO has helped to boost trade growth, resolve numerous trade disputes and support developing countries to integrate into the trading system. It has also provided a bulwark against protectionism,” the WTO Director-General had said earlier this year.

In Africa, some 43 countries are now WTO members, a number that enables the continent to play an outstanding role in the decision-making process of this organization which deals with the global rules of trade between nations and ensures that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.

Yet, despite the successes scored, the WTO needs to deliver in many areas, mainly regarding the pace of negotiation which “remains a source of frustration,” as put by the organization Director-General, who deplored that the poorest members, mainly in Africa and Asia, are still not adequately integrated into the trading system and that the WTO “needs to do more to help them reap the benefits that the system can offer.”

Representatives of several international organizations in charge of trade, finance and development, parliamentarians, diplomats and academics as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society will take part in the Marrakesh conference.

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