At a meeting of the Eighth Ordinary Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Trade this week, a Senior Official of the Economic Commission for Africa, (ECA) has stressed the need for “a rethink of trade and integration priorities” towards a more strategic approach that is informed by sound research.
Speaking on behalf of the ECA Executive Secretary, Mr. Carlos Lopes, Mr.
Stephen Karingi said that recent trends show that a higher volume of exports between African countries is of a more sophisticated nature, compared to African exports to the rest of the world. This, he said, has important policy implications for Africa’s industrial policy in terms of supporting the development of the manufacturing sector and can lead to higher export diversification.
He urged for a shift in the way trade is viewed and stressed: “We must necessarily let our trade policy be led by Africa’s agenda.” “We should be open to have our trade policies as strategic as they can be and we should not hesitate to have our trade agreements, be they with industrialized and/or emerging economies be re-designed, re-negotiated and re-sequenced,” he said, adding that this shift would create and preserves the policy space required for Africa’s industrialization and the effective implementation of regional economic integration initiatives. “It is what empirical evidence shows is good for our continent that should inform our positions,” he added.
He noted that Africa has allowed its regional integration agenda to be dominated by trade. But, stressed, “The worst part is that we have also allowed our trade agenda to both be determined and driven by the international trade negotiations.”
On services and trade facilitation, for instance, he underscored that trade is likely to be more inclusive if we give importance to services as we do to the trade in merchandise goods and underscored that services are important inputs to both manufacturing and agriculture sectors. The services trade agenda, said Karingi, needs to be linked to initiatives that seek to promote trade of locally produced goods, such as the continental free trade area and the boosting intra-African trade.
Present at the meeting were senior representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade; AUC; regional and international organizations; and members of the Diplomatic Corps based in Addis Ababa.