Competition Policy Trade Policy at Work

The Multilateral Trading System in the 21st Century: Interaction Between Trade and Competition Policy

On December 12, 2012 CUTS International Geneva organised a lunch meeting to give the non-resident WTO member and observer countries an overview of some of the “emerging issues” in the multilateral trading system and their implications for them, and presented some emerging findings of its ongoing PACT EAC project in this regard.

“Reality doesn’t wait for the conclusion of the Doha round. It is changing and tackling emerging issues is becoming a pressing need.” Said Guillermo Valles, UNCTAD’s Director of International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, while introducing a session on the theme “Emerging issues and developing countries” at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The event was organized by CUTS International Geneva on December 12 as part of the WTO Geneva Week for Non-Resident Members and Observers.

The increasing pace of change and the multiplication of crisis in the world economy have brought a number of new issues. In a presentation, the Director of CUTS International Geneva Rashid S. Kaukab alluded to the issues of emerging economies, exchange rates, regional trade agreements, food security, climate change and global supply chains among others. “While it is not clear whether the WTO is the right place to address these emerging issues, developing countries should not ignore them as they represent the current reality of the world”, he told the participants.

It was advised that even non-resident WTO member countries, which are often least developed countries that are less integrated into the global economy, should closely monitor these issues to avoid marginalization and ensure that they are not negatively affected by new developments. Participation in regional trade agreements, for instance, may help them form alliances in the WTO and harness opportunities, such as access to larger economic spaces, acquisition of negotiating experience, and improved food security through regional trade.

This was illustrated by Krista Joosep, Assistant Programme Officer at CUTS International Geneva through the example of the East African Community (EAC), where her organization is implementing a project titled “Promoting Agriculture, Climate and Trade linkages in the EAC” (PACT EAC). The ongoing project research has already underscored the potential of trade for feeding the people of the region. “During the 2011 drought, Tanzanian maize exports helped secure food for 4 million people in Kenya where maize production was short by 700,000 bags”, said Ms. Joosep before talking about the potential of Uganda to become a rice basket for the region. However, she pointed out that this potential is largely untapped, since “EAC countries provide only 10% of the region’s food imports.”

Invited as a discussant, Sherwyn Naughton of the Embassy of Guyana based in Brussels echoed Mr. Kaukab’s views on the current state of play in WTO negotiations, saying that “it would be important to safeguard the major breakthroughs of the Doha round for developing countries, even in the event of a non-conclusion of the round. These include the recognition of concepts like special products in agriculture, special and differential treatment for small, vulnerable economies, and preference erosion”. Mr. Naughton concluded by saying that “the conclusion of the Uruguay round attracted many LDCs with the promise that trade will bring about poverty reduction. The WTO now has to deliver on this promise.”