World Trade: Africa Needs Free Trade not Subsidies!

Monday, July 21, 2008

WTOAs trade ministers begin their meetings in Geneva today, to embark on negotiations to free up international trade between World Trade Organization member countries, it has emerged that the European Union is contemplating transferring 1 billion euros of unspent subsidies to African farmers in early 2009. Perhaps it’s the EU’s way of showing remorse for deliberately shutting out African products from reaching its markets. But would accepting this aid end EU’s absurd agricultural policies?

Accepting the aid, which is a possibility, will expose the hypocrisy surrounding the subsidy debate. More importantly, it will be an excuse for the EU to continue subsidizing her farmers. It is important that while we urge lower barriers in rich countries for developing world products, the latter has to do more, doing away with domestic barriers, so that more than 10 percent of an estimated 800 million African population can trade amongst themselves.

Indeed, the success of the Doha Round of trade talks will depend on member’s agreement in four key areas such as agriculture trade between nations, free trade in non-agriculture goods, and a liberalized services industry. However, as has always been the problem, it is unlikely member African countries can produce and supply enough to take advantage of lower tariffs and duties, should there be any after the trade talks.