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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 15:44 GMT
EU admits Africa losing out on trade
European Commissioner for Trade  Pascal Lamy
Pascal Lamy will represent the EU in Doha
Some African countries are losing out on the benefits of world trade liberalisation, the European Commissioner for trade Pascal Lamy admitted in an interview with the BBC's World Business Report.

On Friday the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets in Doha, Qatar to start a new round of trade talks.

"There remains a problem in the fact that a number of African countries feel, and rightly so, that they haven't benefited as much as they should have from trade opening and market liberalisation," Mr Lamy - the EU's chief negotiator - said.

He argues that African countries need help in implementing their WTO commitments and says that those who have opened their markets have seen the benefits.

Baledzi Goalathe, Botswana's finance minister, told the BBC's World Business Report that there was still a long way to go.

"These negotiations become protracted," he said. "We must try to exploit opportunities which already exist."

He agreed however, that some European countries were unwilling to sacrifice jobs for cheaper and more competitive exports from the developing world.

"We have friends, but some people believe any advance for developing countries will lead to unemployment at home," he said.


Many developing countries have been reluctant to go along with plans for a new trade round, fearing that new demands for environmental regulation and labour rights would hurt their industries.

Trade talks have been on hold since 1999, when mass demonstrations and disagreements about the agenda prevented the launching of a new trade round in Seattle.

Those divisions have not gone away, amid bitterness by some developing countries - notably on the Indian subcontinent - that they made more concessions than rich countries in the last trade round.

Mr Lamy is optimistic that Doha will be more successful than the failed Seattle talks.

"The partners in the negotiations are much better prepared. In Seattle, the preparatory process was not a good one... the process has been much more transparent, developing countries have been involved much earlier in this process... the spirit is much better," he said.

Globalisation rhythm

The problem, Mr Lamy claims, is not that previous agreements have not been delivered upon, because "developing countries have been affected by each and every decision, which was taken on the side of market opening in developed countries".

"The problem lies in the fact that a number of African countries, as in Asia, have problems in implementing a number of commitments, which stems from previous negotiations," he said.

The European Commission must help them address these problems, giving them "time, flexibilities in order for their own economies to globalise to a rhythm which is theirs", he said.


The benefits of trade liberalisation are clear, he said, hence pressure from the World Bank and the United Nations' Kofi Annan to start a new round of trade talks.

Moves towards creating regional African trade bodies should help the countries voice their concerns.

"There is also a question of the relevant size of their own market, of their own economies, hence this very important decision which they have taken to get a better regional organisation in Africa," he said.

Environmental fears

Some countries fear European talk of linking environmental standards with trade will inevitably lead to protectionism.

"We understand their concern, we are not going to stop our safety rules, our environmental rules of which our citizens have a lot of desire, affection, and a lot of political commitment, for the sake of helping developing countries," he added.

The EU is happy to work with developing countries to make sure their production facilities match European environmental standards, he said.

European Commissioner Pascal Lamy
"A few African countries feel they haven't benefited as much as they should have"
European Commissioner Pascal Lamy
"Some countries suffer from their own governance systems."
Baledzi Goalathe, Botswana's finance minister
"We must exploit opportunities that already exist."
See also:

25 Oct 01 | Business
World trade stagnates
28 Sep 01 | Business
WTO talks tough on trade
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