President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for the strengthening of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to enable it fulfil its mandate effectively, saying no economy can exist in isolation.
He said the WTO – established on the foundation of non-discrimination, a rules-based global market economy, trade openness, transparency, and the rule of law – is a central pillar of global economic governance.
President Kenyatta observed that the Fourth China Round Table – which he opened in Nairobi today – is a valuable mechanism for strengthening the rules-based Multilateral Trading System.
The President said the questions and thematic focus of the Nairobi China Round Table establish the right policy context regarding Africa’s position in WTO in relation to the international community.
“One of the principal gains from this process has to be the further integration of Least Developed Countries and newly Acceded Members into the Global trade regime,” President Kenyatta said.
He said the 4th China Round Table and the Tenth Ministerial WTO conference, starting tomorrow, provides an opportunity to reaffirm the centrality of the WTO in international cooperation.
As WTO celebrates its 20th anniversary, President Kenyatta said it is time for collective reflection and concrete action.
“National, regional and multilateral policy choices that we make will matter. The choices and positions we take will have consequences,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta emphasised the need for African countries to urgently diversify their economies, re-establish their manufacturing base and integrate into value chains.
He noted that although the continent has registered robust growth, manufacturing was failing and the industrial process weak.
The President said African countries must make the right policy choices and implement them all the way.
“The primary responsibility to industrialize is with Africa. We need to deepen and sustain domestic economic, legal, institutional and structural reforms,” the President said.
President Kenyatta spoke Monday in Nairobi when he opened the High Level Segment (HLS) of the Fourth China Round Table, a first for Africa.
The Round Table comes ahead of the historic 10th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Nairobi – the first to be held in Africa – which opens Tuesday December 15.
He said other members of WTO also have a responsibility to ensure that the global trading system is fairer, noting that trade distorting domestic support was damaging African agriculture and industry.
The President said, “I believe that International cooperation is the key to resolving the collective socio-economic challenges that face us all. It is the basis for stability, peace and security.”
“If we are to industrialize, tariff escalation and peak tariffs should be eliminated. African economies producing competitively should not be halted with defensive trade remedies. Standards should not be the next frontier of protectionism,” he added.
The President expressed hope that the Nairobi 4th China Round Table will lend support for the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), paving the way for its early coming into force so that goods and services can flow more freely among countries.
He said the move would create employment for the youth entering the job market.
“We need a rules-based Multilateral Trading System that provides space and mutual accommodation for the growth and enhanced welfare of all its members,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State pointed out that although WTO had served Africa well since its establishment, it required renewal and regeneration to make it stronger.
“This is why we have gathered in Nairobi to reflect and come up with ways to strengthen the multilateral trading system,” the Head of State said.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed said the 4th China Round Table and the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference were taking place at an important time when there was growing focus on African Trade performance and policy in relation to the role of the Multilateral Trading System.
She affirmed Kenya’s commitment to domestic reforms including those accompanied by capacity building for sustained growth and development.
“Governments do not take domestic reforms for the sake of reform itself, rather we do so to foster and support our country’s economic development. Improving competitiveness and integration into the global economy are means of delivering sustainable development and enables us to improve on the quality of lives of our respective populations,” said CS Amina Mohammed.
Chinese Vice Minister for Commerce Mr. Wang Shouwen said the round table was in agreement that increased trade and investment was key in creating more jobs and prosperity leading to peace and stability in the world.
World Trade Organization Director General Robert Azevêdo said issues being discussed in the forum will be key to the agenda of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the organization.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi also spoke at the event.