Thursday, December 20, 2007
retreat in elmina
central region of
ghana, i seriously
doubt that as i
happily surf the
'net on my
motorola z6, i can
While i allow
me 2 wish all u
regular n non-
regular readers a
full of peace n
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The new multilateral institution is considered as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and seeks to satisfy development credits demand.
Seriously, it's more than an alternative; it's also yet another expression of Venezuela and its associate MERCOSUR members of their dissatisfaction with the prevalent neoliberal system.
I've written about this Bank of the South before and I explained that the Latin Americans had something that Africans certainly didn't. Beyond blood running through their veins, it's about a radicalism and conviction so unprecedented and emanating that any of their opponents feel it viscerally that these are people not to be toyed with.
If not, how is it that despite the articulations of Venezuela against the mighty US, Venezuela has -- along with Brazil; Argentina; Bolivia; Ecuador and Paraguay -- establish this Bank of the South [I notice no Uruguay!!]. Yet, Africans have allowed themselves to be fragmented on the so-called Economic Partnership Agreements?
The fallout of the signing of a so-called EPA-lite by the East African Community and SADC (without South Africa and Namibia) just leaves one speechless--not to mention a little bit less for wear the arduous efforts of civil society -- both in the North and the South.
That said, it's important to press on to stop the discussions between the bullying EU and the other regions.
In my view, the Bank of the South initiative, a formidable alternative indeed to the Breton Woods institutions of the World Bank and IMF in the sense that "each member country would have a single vote, irrespective of size and financial contribution" (from:http://www.nationnews.com/290175804330225.php) brings into sharp relief the necessity for greater collaboration between MERCOSUR in general/Latin America specifically and other AU regionalisms to learn lessons on how they were able to resist the Free Trade Area of the Pacific in 2005, yet AU/ACP countries allowed fragmentation by the EU.
While this issue of the Bank of the South, in my view, is one of the most progressive developments in global regional integration to date--bar the ASEAN charter-- Africans ought to contemporaneously reflect on whether there is that much of a difference between the EU and the US, for them to have allowed the EU--former colonisers at that--to hoodwink many of them into an interim agreement that will most likely destroy attempts at regional integration.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"ASEAN, as an inter-governmental organization, is hereby conferred legal personality," says the Charter. According to the Blueprint, the AEC builds on four pillars: a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy "When it (the Charter) comes into force, it has the potential to transform ASEAN from a loose grouping of countries into a more cohesive, more effective and a more rules-based organization,"
Even at a time when the South East asian regionalisms attitude towards erring members (viz: Pakistan in SAARC, and Myanmar in ASEAN) could be described as this side short of soporific, I have to confess that I am rather excited by the prospect of an ASEAN Charter. Excited, because it signals the beginning of what can be in the critical and progressive discussion on regional integration. What can be as in what is possible, where others might have failed.
I've intoned time and again how the Europeans rejected the constitution back in 2004, yet ASEAN leaders have managed to chalk, and pass it. As to whether it will translate to the citizens is a moot point.
Whatever the case will be, I believe history will look favourably on the 10-member regional organisation that has a population of 500 million [ECOWAS has 250-300 million, and is fifteen members] for having bitten the bullet to pass the Charter.
Highlights of the Charter include a compulsion by members:
to democracy and protection of human rights, the charter also mandates the establishment of a human rights body in the region and aims to turn the region into an European Union-style market.
Though I am wont to criticise the EU-one-size-fits-all that many regionalisms touch on at least once in their life, I am avoiding that here, because I think it's time to accentuate the positive step ASEAN has taken.
Let's remember that 4the organisation turned forty only in August this year. It didn't wait for its Jubilee before doing something constructive for its region!
Above all, and in all seriousness, ASEAN wants to use the Charter to facilitate an Asian Economic Community by 2015. Well, deadlines are great. (Isn't the world supposed to eradicate poverty by half by 2015?) What matters is that there is a framework, a structure that can be carried forward by posterity. ASEAN now has legal personality--and that certainly, four decades after it was established, can only be congratulated.
In many respects, however, I can understand why the celebrations over the charter eclipsed the UN envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari's visit in a way that made the meeting abortive. Put simply, the meeting didn't happen.
I surmise that not that ASEAN was denying that Myanmar is a nettlesome issue, but that to have brought the UN envoy would have been undermining the cohesion ASEAN tried so hard to fight for in taking more than two years to draft this lofty charter.
I have always been in favour of UN envoys--and it's not going to change anytime soon--but, again, I've seen a similar thing in West Africa with Cote d'ivoire when it launched its coup in September 2002.
ECOWAS also decided not to expel it, but brought pressure to bear through the collective voice of ECOWAS to bring normality to the country through...talk.
For all the necessary noise that the US is making by saying (through Susan Schwab, US trade representative) that ASEAN's relationship with Myanmar cannot be "business as usual", it makes sense that ASEAN is not going to break its party anytime soon! Let it cry when it wants to--but certainly not now that there has been a significant, critical and progressive development in ASEAN's regional integration.
quotations taken from the following links:
Thursday, November 08, 2007
At a time when the SAARC region is in the news thanks to one of its key members, Pakistan, it beggars belief that there has been little effort by the regional organisation, that will be celebrating its 22nd anniversary in December, on the issue of regional security .
And I should know.
I come from a region where regional security has been put on a pedestal on account of the internecine conflicts that engulfed the region in the 1990s. Despite the hegemon of Nigeria, the oil-rich country rarely ever became an obstruction in the development of peace in the ECOWAS region. Nigeria was instrumental in providing significant financial capital towards ECOMOG--the peacekeeping wing of ECOWAS. In 2007, ECOWAS has transformed from a Secretariat to a Commission with commissioners leading on the major issues pertinent to the region. Bottom line? ECOWAS, for all its problems and challenges, has moved on. That is not to say that things cannot be done better, and mindsets changed. For what it's worth we see developments.
Very little changed can be said for SAARC.
Not to deny SAARC having golf tournaments, but I find it ludicrous that a regional organisation with the size that SAARC has (seven members, excluding Afghanistan which joined recently) cannot get its regional organisation going!
Contrast this with the East African Community, which collapsed in 1977, but re-invigorated itself in 1993. Today, Rwanda and Burundi are members, making the organisation 5-member strong. Yet it's going strong. ECOWAS has 15--and look at the regional structures it has: a Parliament; a Community Court; and a strong regional security initiative.
SAARC is nowhere near.
I was encouraged, however, last week to read that Pakistan is going to host SAARC Police Chiefs meeting in February. I thought that here was encouraging news that SAARC was finally getting serious. I had the visceral feeling that the meeting was too closely associated with teh War on Terror, especially as Pakistan's role in that war was cited.
I wondered whether it would make headline news next year when Pakistan hosts the Third Meeting on Home Ministers, because it is a putative ally of the Bush administration, or would it be consigned to the proverbial dustbin of "irrelevant" news?
On the positive note, it was good to see that the SAARC Home Ministers are interested in establishing an electronic network of police authorities of SAARC countries.
It's certainly something that here, in the ECOWAS region, given the spate of gun-related crimes, we could do with! When the West Africa Police Chiefs Committee met a few weeks ago, I do not re-call hearing anything concrete like this SAARC proposal.
However, what was said by Ghana’s Minister of Interior Nana Obiri Boahen, was this:
I am also honoured to be part of this historic occasion when the Police Gendarmerie from our sister Francophone countries are joining their counterparts to discuss issues of mutual and common interest.
I am told that the ECOWAS Commission is expanding its Political Peacekeeping and Security Department to include a police unit that will take care of police issues within the ECOWAS community.
This laudable idea has been on the commission’s agenda for quite some time now and I am particularly happy that the idea is being implemented.
In my view, such lacuna go to underscore complementarities that I have talked about before being factored in any critical and progressive discussion on regional integration.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ATameru@uneca.org <ATameru@uneca.org>
Date: 25 Oct 2007 07:32
Subject: UNITED NATIONS COMMITS TO DELIVER AS ONE AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL
UNITED NATIONS COMMITS TO DELIVER AS ONE AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL
New York, 24 October 2007 – Reaffirming their commitment to work together to enhance the impact of United Nations development activities, the United Nations Regional Commissions and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today signed a Cooperation Framework at UNDP Headquarters in New York.
The Cooperation Framework is intended to build on the complementarities between the work of the Regional Commissions and UNDP. The Regional Commissions and UNDP have agreed to collaborate, coordinate and complement each other in assisting Member States achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals. They also commit to sharing knowledge on policy development issues, programmes, and emerging priorities to support sustainable human development; and to address issues likely to benefit from regional or multi-country involvement. Using their comparative strengths, the Regional Commissions and UNDP will work together to encourage organizational effectiveness at the global and regional level and also, where relevant, at the national and local levels. Joint collaboration is expected to focus on a number of areas, including human resources development; country-level planning processes; follow-up to United Nations Summits and international conferences; regional coordination; knowledge management; regional and inter-regional technical cooperation; advisory services at the country level; and joint products and initiatives at the regional and global levels.
Upon the signing of the new agreement, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, and current Coordinator of the Regional Commissions, stressed that the implementation of the Cooperation Framework, through channeling the comparative strengths and capacities of the Regional Commissions and UNDP, should result in more effective and efficient support and service delivery to the developing countries in the various regions and to UN country development work. This should also foster more coherence in UN development work at the country, regional and global levels.
Mr. Kemal Derviş, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the Untied Nations Development Group, emphasized that strong partnerships are critical to the provision of quality development services and expressed confidence that the new Cooperation Framework will mark a new stage in this partnership for results. He also pledged UNDP's continuing support to building a more responsive and effective Untied Nations at the country and regional levels.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Prospects for an AU govt: ISS Paper Review
18 July, 2007
By E.K.Bensah II
Even at the best of times, regional integration is slow and protracted, and at the very worst, a problematic enterprise. Key institutions like the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa maintain that a combination of lack of ratification of protocols, coupled with the overlapping membership are some of the primordial reasons why regional integration in Africa is as encumbered as it is. To this end, a united African Union government would offer a new way of Africa doing things its own way, and what better place to discuss an AU government than in the very country that spawned one of the greatest Pan-Africanists that ever lived—Dr.Kwame Nkrumah;l even better was the fact that this discussion would take place at the Ninth Summit of the African Union, held in July.
It is against this backdrop that the South-African based Institute for Security Studies would launch seven papers in
To say that Dr.Mzukisi Qobo, a research associate at the South African Institute of International Affairs, is against union government is, in fact, to do a disservice to the man, for he is not so much against any conception of union government as he is against one that fails to take into account a market-based approach. Operating from the principle that the current rhetoric is “decidedly state-centric and obsessed with anti-imperialism”, his take is explicit: a greater involvement of non-state actors, as well as “a normative convergence on the issues of democratization and promotion of human rights.”
While noone has denied the utility of democratic dispensations at the domestic level facilitating an enabling environment conducive to economic growth, it would seem that this is not the end-all and be-all. The use of non-state actors—often a codeword for the private sector—may be palatable, only insofar as it feeds into the ideal of a regional integration project that is people-centred. Without the people element, the conception of an AU government predicated merely on the development of the economy would seem myopic in the extreme.
That said, the author outlines four main challenges associated with regional integration in a manner that reflects his attachment to the neo-classical paradigm based on export-orientation.
In his view, the biggest challenge to regional integration in the context of prospects towards a United States of Africa is to do with
Secondly, Qobo argues that African countries mismanaged their economies after colonialism, which inevitably led to corruption. It is interesting to note that he makes little mention of the impact of the deleterious effects of IFI-imposed policies of the World Bank and IMF, and the extent to which they played adverse effects on the countries of African economies.
He even goes on to make the spurious argument that despite the World Bank “channeling massive financial resources towards the improvement of the infrastructure is[sic] areas of water and roads, public financial systems and local economic governance in various countries”, African economies had failed to create a more enabling environment for business. Let’s remember that for Qobo, a sound environment conducive to “bold” economic reforms spell success in African regional integration.
He cites as a third major challenge the absence of a Central Bank for Africa, which has caused chaos in
This point, whilst credible, is utopian, for the current practice where money from donors is tied to aid comprehensively inhibits any control that African countries might have on regulating their finances. That the Bretton Woods institutions enjoy a great stranglehold and say in the capital account of AU countries is sufficient to render an idea like this null and void. The impression, regrettably, one gets from reading this is that the author appears out of touch of the practical obstacles that remain from the current relationship with our donors.
A fourth point that he makes that lends greater credence with some of the key challenges is the issue of debt servicing, and the extent to which it cripples AU countries’ economies: “Africa is also a continent that is adversely affected by soaring foreign debt and is highly dependent on flows of overseas development assistance—most of which is re-channeled [by way of consultants] and multilateral credit institutions to service debt.”
These four main points in the paper are further underscored by an attempt at alternatives, with the first being a regional integration that runs in the vein of the European Union, where membership is incremental, and with “the criteria for membership includ[ing] democratic indicators, fiscal prudence and monetary policy variables.”
Put simply, fiscal prudence is about rolling back the state by spending less on provision of social services, and much more of this kind of ideology finds expression in much of his paper. He writes, for example, about the need for “bold” and “far-reaching” economic reforms. In fact, he makes no secret that, in his view, this is the way for
In other words, a more liberalized domestic economy should translate into a regionally-liberalized space, where there is a greater focus on export-orientation and market-based approaches. He goes so far as to argue that even if a regional mechanism is to “have credibility, larger countries or groups within the integrating regions need to play a more active and influential leadership role.” These “larger groups” he talks about are reminiscent of the role of hegemons within the existing regional groupings (
What he does do, however, is give a score card of some of the existing regional integration initiatives which he considers “promising”: SADC, CEMAC; COMESA; EAC; and ECOWAS. Analysed through the filter of the extent to which they have pursued “comprehensive trade liberalization and facilitation measures”, his result is as evident as it is emphatic: “despite these successes, it should be stressed these RECS still have a long way to go to achieve the objectives of the A[frican] E[conomic] C[ommunity].”
However, he raises another point that seems as ridiculous as it is spurious. In his view, one of the areas of “notable success” is the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament in March 2004. He maintains: “this has a value for enlarging the space for dialogue and ensuring factors beyond the executive arms of government participate in shaping continental development and influencing processes of regional integration and cooperation.” For a so-called Pan-African law-making body that enjoys an administrative status over an executive one three years after its inception, this argument is risible in the extreme.
Throughout the paper, Qobo gives in many times to the apparently alluring appeal of the leitmotiv of corruption and mismanagement to explain away some of the challenges facing African countries on the rocky road towards the magnificent vision of an African Union government. This line of thinking, however, is one drop short of myopic because it fails to fully acknowledge the nebulous and nefarious prescriptive policies of what the Monde Diplomatique newspaper called in 2002 as the “other axis of evil”: the Bretton Woods Institutions, and the WTO.
Although Qobo, at some point, refers to regulation, he is far too late in the game of advocating market-based reforms that we leave the article in visceral repulsion at this over-the-top suggestion of bold economic reforms setting a precedent for the regional.
This is an uneditted version of a review that appeared in TWN-Africa’s African Agenda (vol10.3)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues
11 October 2007
UNCTAD Board debates regional cooperation and development
Published by SUNS #6337 dated 4 October 2007
By Kanaga Raja,
The Trade and Development Board of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Wednesday held a discussion on the agenda item of interdependence and global economic issues from a trade and development perspective, focussing on regional cooperation and development.
The focal point for these discussions was UNCTAD's flagship publication, the Trade and Development Report 2007 (TDR), whose theme this year was on regional cooperation and development (See SUNS #6319 dated 10 September 2007).
The Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD is currently holding its fifty-fourth session from 1-11 October.
In introducing the TDR at the session, UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi said that UNCTAD had published a highly illuminating report that emphasized an analysis of the proliferation of regional integration worldwide.
Supachai also noted that regional integration does not have to encompass trade alone. After the Asian financial crisis, there was financial cooperation in the region to pool reserves, he said, pointing, for example, to the "Chiang Mai" initiative.
Heiner Flassbeck, Director of UNCTAD's Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, presented the main findings of the report as well as an overall outlook of the global economic situation.
He noted that surplus countries are seeing their currencies depreciate while deficit countries are seeing an appreciation of their currencies. This could be a dangerous development, he said, and asked whether the international adjustment mechanism is working.
Flassbeck also pointed to the issue of destabilizing speculation, in that floating exchange rates, induced by interest rate differentials, frequently move in the wrong direction - leading to "false pricing" in the international product markets. Carry trade is also a source of imbalance for some economies.
He stressed that regional cooperation in the financial field is one way of getting out of these problems. "We need to look in a coherent way to reap the benefits of globalization, and regional cooperation is one extremely important ingredient."
Cooperation and regional integration is not a new phenomenon, it said. It is a core element of the development strategies for developing countries. The report says that South-South regionalism includes substantially the provision of regional public goods and the re-configuration and merger of political space in one economical regional space to benefit all members of the group, the G77 added.
The nature and implementation of regionalism is one thing and the impact on developing countries is another. What is required is permanent monitoring and assessment.
The analysis of regional South-South trade agreements shows the importance of placing more attention on the way to manage and solve potential imbalances in trade distribution and the economic benefits among members with different levels of development.
The G77 highlighted that a single instrument for South-South regionalism is the GSTP among developing countries.
As to North-South FTAs, the G77 said that the analysis in the report on this issue is especially interesting. The report said that it is necessary for careful assessment of the costs and benefits by developing countries before signing these agreements. The challenge is to maximize the potential benefits of the agreements and minimize the possible costs.
The G77 also highlighted what it considered key parts in the North-South FTAs that could help guarantee benefits to developing countries. It said that Special and Differential Treatment has to be explicit and correctly provided in terms of long periods of transition and product coverage.
The Asian Group noted that the TDR points to some encouraging economic trends in
The Group said that the TDR points out that although the overall world economic situation is more favourable for developing countries than at any time since the early 1970s, large external shocks originating in developed countries could have serious effects on
As the TDR points out, said the
Thus, there is a need to focus on regional integration efforts which are part of a broader development strategy aimed at faster domestic capital accumulation and technological progress in the most promising industrial and service sectors of each country.
Regionalism can then be a viable development path, even if at times, it might require a transfer of national policy space towards a regional policy space, allowing sufficient flexibility and greater coherence at the regional level.
A clear example of this transfer of policy space is when regional coordination preserves the policy space needed to effectively manage FDI, especially when un-coordinated national policies aimed at attracting FDI lead to a race to the bottom as governments cut regulations and offer generous tax incentives.
The Asian Group said that regional cooperation should therefore also include coordinated and joint action in policy areas that strengthen the potential for growth and structural change in developing countries, including macroeconomic, financial, infrastructure and industrial policies.
In this regard, economic cooperation among developing countries, including at the regional level, to improve transport facilities, provide commercial information, and which pool efforts in areas such as energy, water supply, research and development, and knowledge generation, can be crucial for the success of development strategies.
The Asian Group said that given that developing countries today have less options for public policies in support of development and structural change than the more advanced economies at similar stages of development, it may indeed be useful to explore how regional cooperation can widen national policy space by enabling individual countries to undertake bolder projects for development.
Like the previous year's TDR, this year's report is a very useful exercise in presenting options of operationalizing policy space, thus responding to UNCTAD's mandate on policy space stemming from the Sao Paulo Consensus and the world summit.
In this regard, said the Philippines, the Asian experience of pursuing development through an eclectic mix of policy instruments, rather than a focussed approach based on prevailing orthodoxy, has delivered positive results.
Indeed, those countries which best weathered the Asian financial crisis were those which pursued pragmatic and effective policies based on their own unique needs and circumstances, rather than those which adhered more closely with the orthodox policy prescriptions.
A specific example is in the area of addressing the need for greater systemic stability in order to prevent a recurrence of the Asian financial crisis. In the absence of an effective international mechanism to address global imbalances, some Asian countries have recognized that regional cooperation can be effective in providing some security against abrupt corrections of exchange rates and volatility in financial markets.
In particular, said the Asian Group, regional cooperation may help developing countries deal with shortcomings in the international financial system in three areas: provision of regional payment facilities and short-term balance-of-payments financing; provision of long-term development finance; and protection against exchange rate volatility and currency misalignments that can distort trade flows and undermine fruitful trade relations.
Of particular interest in this regard are regional initiatives which seek to promote greater financial and monetary stability especially in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, the Asian Group said, pointing to initiatives such as the Chiang Mai initiative, which is geared towards both crisis management and prevention.
This initiative involves not only ASEAN countries but also China, Japan and Korea, underling that there are often interests common to developed and developing countries and that effective cooperation is possible in filling important gaps in the global economic architecture.
The purpose is to evaluate, from a trade and development perspective, regionalism as a political option for developing countries and economies in transition. It addresses, also, the relations between globalization, regionalism and development and the implications, for those countries, of North-South free trade agreements or regional trade agreements.
The EU said that it remains committed to the multilateral trading system as a priority to guarantee benefits for all economies, in particular the LDCs. However, in parallel to the multilateral approach, said the EU, we believe that we cannot disregard the regional context and therefore disagree with the report's judgment that North-South bilateral or regional trade agreements "threaten the coherence of multilateral trading system".
We cannot accept either that "new regionalism denotes a departure from multilateralism,
The multilateral system, while being a powerful tool to fight poverty and promote cooperation between all main international actors and the developing and least developed economies, also constitutes a privileged forum to debate ideas and to find common approaches, thus providing a wider understanding of the world's economic problems and goals.
Nevertheless, said the EU, strengthening regional trade agreements (RTAs) is a complementary approach that must not be neglected and that represents a new trend amongst the main trade partners. One does not contradict the other, the EU said, adding that we need to pursue new opportunities, sharpening our efforts to open markets and tackle trade distortions both within the multilateral system and through bilateral and regional initiatives.
The EU said that RTAs also provide the basis for much more far-reaching trade liberalization (regulatory initiatives and elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade) than have so far been possible within the WTO. In this context, we must ensure that regulatory aspects of regionalism are based on clear and fair rules boosting sustainable development for all countries.
The EU supported the findings of the report that regional cooperation among developing countries has the potential to support national development strategies and that there appears to be an untapped potential for closer regional integration among developing countries. The EU also believed that North-South agreements do not threaten multilateral rules, but complement them.
But there can also be disadvantages for them, because RTAs usually demand deeper liberalization of trade in goods and services, liberalization of foreign investment and government procurement, new rules on certain aspects of competition policy, stricter rules on intellectual property rights, and the incorporation of labour and environmental standards, while measures that can most benefit developing countries such as removing agricultural subsidies by developed countries are left out.
North-South RTAs could have positive effects on developing countries depending on the structure of these arrangements, the level of existing protection, and the formulation of rules. Improved market entry conditions including simplified rules of origin, mutual recognition of standards and trade facilitation measures would also be particularly beneficial to developing countries, said
Also there is a need for these arrangements to take into account the interest of developing countries in the form of special and differential treatment in commitments and disciplines, said Iran, adding that UNCTAD has an important role to play in assisting developing countries to deal with the interface between multilateralism and regionalism.
A representative of Third World Network congratulated UNCTAD for the TDR on regional cooperation and development, which it said is a very pertinent issue. The theme of regional cooperation should be a building block towards international cooperation. The best way towards this building block is to have South-South cooperation. This is important because countries at similar stages of development can help each other by expanding their markets.
Two very interesting and comprehensive sections in the report are that which relate to North-South trade agreements and South-South agreements, said TWN, adding that it was disappointed by the criticisms made to the report in relation to North-South FTAs and was surprised at statements that say that such FTAs are coherent with the WTO agreements.
The section on North-South agreements accurately portrays the dilemmas that developing countries face. Most North-South FTAs on balance give rise to more costs than benefits. The apparent aim of developing countries is to expand their trade and employment through these agreements.
However, said TWN, in reality, we face more problems. In the area of trade, because of the reciprocal nature of the FTAs, developing countries have to bring down their tariffs mostly to zero for agriculture and industrial products. This has caused very significant dislocation of farms, local firms and jobs.
At the same time, increase in exports for most developing countries is limited due to continued agriculture subsidies in the North, which are not addressed in the FTAs, and due to limited supply capacity.
Whilst gains are limited in trade and in most cases are negative, said TWN, developing countries lose out in their loss of policy space. In particular, they have to agree to take on obligations in relation to the
TWN said that the procurement chapter erodes the policy space of developing countries to use government expenditure as a tool for boosting economic and social development. The interpretation of competition inhibits the role of government to assist local companies. On IPRs, many of the flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS agreement are severely eroded. All these are erosion to policy space and poses a serious development threat.
TWN thanked UNCTAD for highlighting these problems in the report which it said is useful for raising awareness of civil society in the South. It was also of the view that the chapters on regional cooperation in the South and financial cooperation provide excellent material to foster South-South cooperation in trade and finance areas.
It called for UNCTAD to develop its role in advancing these discussions through seminars and further studies.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
At a time when the African Union's Peace and Security Council has well and truly slapped sanctions on the "rebellious" Comoros Islands, restricting their travel, and freezing their accounts, it beggars belief that in September, in a piece on the BBC about SAARC, a SAARC citizen would have written this in respect to the putative failure of SAARC:
Apart from OAU/OUA no other regional organization can rival the irrelevance of SAARC. The initiatives on the economic side which drove MERCOSUR, ASEAN, NAFT, EEA, usually have been put on sidelines. Pakistan does not even accord Most Favored Nation status to India. SAARC conferences are big fund guzzlers in a region that excels in poverty. It is completely irrelevant, particularly for India, to break out of the mold of 'Greater India' or Akhanda Bharat mindset and focus more on economic development, it does not need more laggards to pull it down. A good example is European Union, quite a choosy, club, which has elected to exclude Turkey. Sometimes less can even turn out to be more!
Sandeep Chowdhury, Germany
I'm not quite sure what to do about such comments--whether to laugh or cry. On the flip side, it reveals the profound misunderstanding that exists by many worldwide on the different types of regionalisms that exist, and the qualitative nature of those regionalisms.
I can very well imagine that there are many EU citizens who have probably never heard of ECOWAS or COMESA or even the ACP Group--even though it's well and truly ensconced some five minutes drive, on Avenue Georges Henri, past the metros of Schuman, into the European Communities!
Back to the SAARC expatiation, and you see something a bit predictable and sinister. Predictable, because casual observors of the region have talked at length about the apathy exuding from the region by India in reconciling with Pakistan--and how that is a key factor in injecting vigour into the seven/eight-- (if you count Afghanistan) member regional organisation established since 1985. It's going to be 22 years old this December, and I daresay the analysis around that period will be...more of the same.
Sinister, because a lot of the blame is predicated on an India-Pakistan nexus of (atavistic) and historical "hate".
Looking specifically at some of the submissions by readers, the comments ranged in between these answers:
It is important to indicate that the submissions came from India; Germany; USA; Zimbabwe; UK; Pakistan; Canada; Italy; Pakistan; and Maldives (another member of SAARC)
One submission from Pakistan maintained:
The only thing that the Saarc summit has ever been able to decide is where the next Saarc summit should be held. It is a pathetic organisation - though mind you there are others in competition with it in being useless for example Sadc - the Southern African Development Community.
Alia Mansuri, Pakistan
It is interesting, also, to note that the submission above about "OAU" (it's been the AU since 2003!!) was made by I presume a SAARC citizen in...the more "successful" EU.
I was priviledged some three weeks ago to have been part of a seminar on regional integration, hosted here in Accra, by my organisation, and organised by CODESRIA. in which one academic from Tunis presented a paper about the Arab Maghreb Union being highly irrelevant out of the AU RECs (and the world).
This to me says that whilst the submission from Germany was profoundly myopic about the qualitative nature of regionalisms worldwide, the sense that citizens of "failing" regionalisms--never mind failing states are waking up to smell the bitter coffee that there are better examples elsewhere.
Without forcing a pun, they're truly getting critical on regional integration perspectives. A little more progressive views might help, though!;-)
JOHANNESBURG (IPS) - Enthusiasm tempered with notes of caution has characterised the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Business Forum, held in Johannesburg in the run up to the latest heads of state summit of the three countries.
Roughly two hundred delegates were in attendance at the forum Tuesday, many eager about the prospects for increasing trilateral trade. At the same time, they were acutely aware of barriers that still hinder progress.
"The current level of trade amongst the three countries is very low, dismally low, and business is worried about those levels of trade amongst the three countries," Jerry Vilakazi, chief executive officer of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), told IPS, adding that only two percent of the combined foreign trade of the three states was conducted with each other. BUSA speaks for South African business on matters that concern it nationally and internationally.
Vilakazi said that more needs to be done to help business people in the IBSA nations recognise opportunities for trade and investment. "We need to understand: What are the trade opportunities that we have not leveraged within the three countries?"
To achieve this understanding, Vilakazi believes business people should meet each other more often between the heads of state summits, and hold special sessions dedicated to exploring trade opportunities.
Sceptics claims that IBSA trilateral trade is unlikely ever to reach heights that would challenge existing trade links with the industrialised North, because all three states essentially have emerging economies that produce similar exports.
However, this point of view was rejected by Habil Khorakiwala, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, who argued that there is in fact "a great degree of complementarity".
He also identified four areas where, in his view, there is considerable scope for synergy between the three countries: agriculture and food processing, pharmaceuticals, transport and energy.
Khorakiwala pointed out that India has a "huge energy deficit" while Brazil is a world leader in biofuels, and South Africa has developed innovative methods of producing synthetic fuels from coal. He believes that these differences in the energy sector provide ample opportunity for more South-South co-operation.
Khorakiwala, who also heads up a large pharmaceutical company in India, believes that although all three IBSA members manufacture pharmaceutical products, there is room for trade in this sector because they do not turn out the same products.
He noted, however, that trilateral trade is being seriously impeded by the inadequate transport links between India, Brazil and South Africa. It is notoriously difficult to book a flight between India and South Africa, and equally difficult to find a seat on the daily flights between South Africa and Brazil.
While the airline companies are eager to take advantage of the rising demand for travel between the IBSA countries, governments have been slow to negotiate and approve routes and landing rights. South African Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa made a commitment to the forum to address this issue.
He also promised to deal with another complaint voiced by several Indian businessmen, concerning difficulties in arranging visas to visit South Africa. They said this had discouraged many of them from exploring business opportunities here.
Mpahlwa said that South-South trade was growing rapidly. He acknowledged, however, that there are still far more barriers to trade between countries of the South than there are for their Northern counterparts.
He also recognised that in many cases it is non-tariff barriers -- bureaucracy and regulations -- that have the greatest dampening effect on trade between developing nations.
Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Luiz Inácio da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India will sign a number of important agreements when they meet in the South African capital, Pretoria, Wednesday. These accords are stepping stones towards a free trade agreement covering all three countries.
Wednesday's gathering will be the second IBSA summit.
IBSA was established in 2003, amidst hopes that the three regional powers could boost South-South co-operation and trade. (END)
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Recent events in Burma and Sudan have conspired to remind me about the need to have regional responses to these regional crises. Regional, because Myanmar is a member of ASEAN, and Sudan, a member of not just IGAD, but the more formidable African Union.
When I heard the news of the 10 AU peacekeepers having been killed over the weekend, I found myself almost on the verge of tears.
What happened to "never again" in Rwanda? More importantly, I couldn't help but remember, in uncanny parallels, how 10 Belgian peacekeepers were killed in Rwanda, prompting a hasty retreat. Whether Belgium was justified or not in the withdrawal, let's just say that in 1994, at the height of the genocide, no-one could have blamed them.
In my view, a quick reminder of the quasi-parallels are worth reminding ourselves about:
In January 1994, three months before the killings, Major General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda, informed the Belgian government that the Hutus were preparing for a large-scale slaughter of Tutsis. Despite repeated warnings, the Belgians refused to provide or request further assistance.
In February, Belgian Foreign Minister Claes sent the Belgian Senate a telex that reported the possibility of genocide. No additional precautions were authorized.
The massacres ultimately were provoked April 6, 1994, by the death of Rwandan President Habyarimana, a Hutu, blown up in his jet as it approached Kigali airport on his way back from Arusha, Tanzania. Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, also a Hutu, was killed on the same plane. The two presidents had just agreed to let Tutsi refugees in Burundi return to Rwanda.
Reacting to Habyarimana’s death, Hutu leaders proceeded with their plan to exterminate Rwanda’s Tutsi minority.
General Dallaire, the UNAMIR commander, saw the developing danger. He asked Uwilingiyimana, Rwanda’s Hutu prime minister, to speak on Rwandan radio to help calm the nation. He sent 10 Belgian soldiers in U.N. blue berets to pick up Uwilingiyimana at her house.
The Belgians took gunfire at the house, and when Uwilingiyimana tried to slip out the back, the militant Hutus caught her and killed her on the spot.
Then the 10 Belgians, with U.N. advice, agreed to disarm, and the Hutus took them in trucks to Camp Kigali, a military compound. Here, a mob of Hutu soldiers attacked the Belgians.
The Hutus beat several of the Belgians to death with iron bars. A few peacekeepers ran to a cinder block hut and tried to fight off the attackers. Hours later, the last of the 10 was killed with a grenade.
Shocked by the death of the 10 Belgians, Foreign Minister Claes asked U.N. secretary-general Boutros-Ghali for permission to withdraw all Belgian troops from the peacekeeping force. Claes also told Boutros-Ghali that the U.N. should suspend its entire operation in Rwanda.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Boutros-Ghali said a Belgian withdrawal would cripple the UNAMIR mission
In the same vein, a Nigerian withdrawal would cripple the AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan) that is about to become part of a UN-AU hybrid 26 000-strong force. This, despite the fact that Nigerian AU peacekeepers were also killed--and Nigeria has been emphatic about this, too:
"The Federal government of Nigeria condemns this attack and is concerned that this incident may undermine the credibility of the international mission," presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said in a statement.
But he ruled out any withdrawal from the peacekeeping mission.
"Nigeria will still continue to participate because we are committed to our commitment in Darfur under the UN/AU hybrid force," Adeniyi added.
Meanwhile, it was interesting that in all the responses of conflict management offered by listeners to BBC World Service news last Friday in News Hour, it had to take Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-general now-turned junior foreign minister in the Gordon Brown administration in the UK, to talk about an ASEAN response to the crisis in Myanmar/Burma.
In a manner which I personally felt was slightly self-serving on Australia's part, it was interesting to read that Australia did not wholly condem an ASEAN response; in fact, it praised ASEAN:
perhaps most significantly, the ASEAN leaders meeting in New York last week released an uncharacteristically strong statement condemning the violence, calling for the release of all political detainees, including Suu Kyi, and imploring all parties to find a political solution.
Perhaps I spoke too soon?:
It is ASEAN's new robust position that offers an opportunity for Australia.
Having successfully assumed a leadership role at APEC and enjoying strong relationships with a number of ASEAN countries — including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and ASEAN's chair, Singapore — Australia is well positioned to work with them in co-ordinating a regional response, including multiparty talks.
However it turns out in Burma, what with China, Japan and India playing key roles in the resolution of the crisis, what is crystal-clear to me is that the world ought to be moving slowly and surely towards a time when crises -- as exemplified by that of the ambush of the AU peacekeepers (ending in a meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council), and that of Burma -- prompt a visceral direction towards a regional response.
About this, there must be no question.