Friday, 1 August 2008

Business Reponse to Doha Trade Talks Collapse

Business representatives of Business Action for Africa issued the following statement on this week's collapse of the Doha Trade Talks:

Business Action for Africa, an international network of over 200 businesses, business organisations and development partners, calls on global leaders, in business and in government alike, to respond to the collapse of world trade talks this week by urgently looking for pragmatic ways forward to reduce barriers to trade and to stimulate global growth and development.

As businesses operating across Africa, we know that Africa will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals to halve world poverty by 2015 if it is not allowed to increase its trade with the rest of the world. Global leaders and the WTO must act urgently to show that there is still a multilateral way forward which can deliver results quickly for the whole world economy and especially Africa.

As we know, huge progress was made in the last six years, and in the last six days of the talks. So, rather than give up all this progress for two years or more, let us implement as much as possible as soon as possible:

1. Implement the 2005 Hong Kong agreement, by developed countries and larger developing countries in a position to do so, to provide completely free market access for all products from the world’s 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), of which 32 are in Africa.

2. Richer countries should honour their commitment to do this by 2008 and not enforce their right to wait for the rest of the Doha agreement. This should include the commitment to simplify rules of origin to make trade easier. Developed countries should apply this to 100 per cent of exports from LDCs and waive the 3 per cent exemption negotiated in 2005, which cuts the benefits of this agreement to LDCs from $7bn a year to $1bn a year.

3. Complete the negotiations on Trade Facilitation, which is within reach. This would make all trade easier, benefiting all countries, including at the intra-regional level, and, unusually, comes with guaranteed assistance for developing countries from developed ones. The OECD estimates that by reducing export time by 4.5 days for Sub-Saharan Africa could increase exports to OECD countries by 10 per cent. Trade facilitation, alongside investment climate reform, is a key way to stimulate business investment – a key driver of growth and poverty reduction.

4. The WTO should continue through the agreements achieved so far in a ‘progressive multilateral undertaking’ to reduce trade barriers, where possible, in agriculture, manufactured goods, services and rules.

As the global economy starts to falter and progress towards the MDGs is under threat, now is not the time to take a break. It is time for hard work and hard decisions.

Joint statement issued by the following organisations, in their capacity as board members of Business Action for Africa:

De Beers Group

International Business Leaders Forum

SABMiller plc

Unilever plc

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