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Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland, Ambassador Ransford Smith has said that the involvement in trade negotiations by business sectors in developing countries was too minimal.
This, he said, added to some of the inherent problems of “temperamental” World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.
“The developing countries’ negotiators are mainly bureaucrats. Our corporate sector needs to meet with them, tell them the issues and exchange ideas. This however is not happening on the scale it should,” Ambassador Smith said.
He was addressing a joint workshop hosted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on Monday(Oct. 24) at the Terra Nova Hotel.
Ambassador Smith contrasted the preparedness of developed countries to that of the developing nations.He cited examples where representatives from developed countries attended meetings with documents and proposals from their business sectors.
“In the WTO the Caribbean countries only account for 0.3 per cent of manufactured goods traded and the 15 largest countries account for six per cent. And so we are not major players in trade negotiations,” he noted. However, he stressed that developing countries should acquire the political will to “ensure that our voices are heard as we seek to prevent drastic changes in the short to medium term”.
Ambassador Smith, who described the ongoing Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations as “very tactical and strategic,” said that the main task was to “get something on the table to show our disagreement with the draconian measures.” He also noted that once decisions were taken at the WTO level they could not be retracted and thus the stalemate, as developing nations sought a working solution.
In this respect, Jamaica’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN disclosed that a vulnerability index was currently being developed and this would identify products that would be affected by significant tariff cuts. “This is to ameliorate the expected fall offs from the tariff cuts,” he said.
Ambassador Smith expressed disapproval of the United States’ stance that the tariff reduction would be beneficial to all, noting that many Eastern Caribbean States would be significantly hurt by reductions.
He said, three-quarters of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) products exported to the European Union had no preferential treatment and zero tariffs, whilst the EU’s average industrial tariff was four per cent. With this, he added that the EU should partner with developing countries to provide assistance.
Ambassador Smith also noted that the diversity amongst developing countries was another factor impeding negotiations and said co-operation should therefore be issue-based and not geo-political.
“It is difficult to keep developing countries together.some are large, some are small. China is still considered a developing country. They for instance have different concerns. We need to go beyond geographical and political alliances and find issue based ones,” Ambassador Smith asserted.
The workshop was convened mainly to discuss the implications of the WTO’s ongoing Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations, concerning tariff cuts and preference erosion for the manufacturing sector.