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Equiping SADC states for effective participation in multilateral agricultural trade negotiations
Policy Discussion Paper No. 2, Series 1
2003
C Muchopa and B Mashoko
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)


Executive Summary

Agriculture continues to play an important role in the SADC region, making substantial contributions to GDP, employment and export revenue. However, there is scope for improving productivity and growth to reduce persistent problems of poverty and food insecurity as well increasing supply to international agricultural markets. SADC member states expect the regional integration programme including implementation of the SADC Trade Protocol to increase the region's competitiveness in international trade and the scope for a common agenda in global negotiations, taking into account internal and external threats to the integration process.

Access to timely and high quality trade information as well as strong capacity to utilise such information is vital for effective trade policy formulation and participation in multilateral trade negotiations. The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA) has the mandate to develop and promote dissemination of technical and policy level information on agricultural and rural development for stakeholders in the African Caribbean and Pacific group, including SADC countries.

For 25 years up to 2000, the Lome' Convention provided preferential trade arrangements into the EU market, financial support for development programmes and promoted intra-ACP networking for the benefit of the ACP countries. However, the seminar identified structural constraints and distorted international agricultural markets as some of the key reasons for continued low trade performance by the beneficiaries of the Convention. Due to incompatibility with WTO rules and the pressure for economic reforms in the EU, the Cotonou Agreement replaced the Lome Convention to provide for transitional arrangements for ACP-EU trade and development relations to adapt to international trade rules.

The SADC region and other developing countries face multi-faceted challenges in effective participation in multilateral negotiations. Although they registered some improvements in macro-economic policies in the past decade, there is a wide scope for further improvements, particularly integrating trade in national development planning and promoting conditions for widespread policy dialogue and review. Improvements in the share of world trade and the distribution of revenues within the economy is an important incentive for domestic stakeholders to participate more actively in dialogue and the development of sustainable institutions for such dialogue.

Agriculture is a sensitive sector in many WTO-member countries as reflected by the slow pace of past and expected trade liberalisation efforts. Divergent interests within developing countries in the WTO agricultural negotiations weaken their bargaining strengths. Low capacity to execute current rights and obligations and to evaluate the impact of past reforms as well as inherent gaps in negotiating techniques are some of the challenges facing trade negotiators. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues continue to threaten world trade in agriculture as a non-tariff barrier. Developing countries must take advantage of its current provisions while pushing for a simplified agreement that is easier to interpret.

In the future ACP-EU negotiations, SADC and other states have to contend with supply-side constraints, the shift in ACP-EU donor relationship to a more competitive relationship and the differential negotiating capacities. Trade negotiators must enhance their understanding of the negotiating process, including the different phases of the negotiations and expected outcomes. Many member states still have to identify their negotiating interests, to improve internal communication and to understand the negotiating principles outlined in the Cotonou agreement and the economic implications of various options. Some of the specific issues include the centrality of the reform of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy, the appropriate place of the WTO 'new' issues in the ACP-EU negotiations and the institutional arrangements for the negotiations, including the geographical configuration.

This paper highlights the critical need for capacity building strategies to equip SADC states for multilateral negotiations. The paper notes as an important challenge, the identified policy gaps at the international level in developing and agreeing on the rationale & focal areas of technical assistance programmes. Based on identified challenges in developing countries and in SADC states in particular, the paper proposes that capacity-building strategies must focus on enhanced policy formulation and on negotiating capacity.

Policy strategies must address structural constraints, focusing on integrated development planning, quantitative analyses and equitable growth. Improvements in the areas of consultation, trade policy prioritization, resource allocation, institutional development, specialist training and regional alliance building are important focal areas for enhancing trade negotiating capacities.

The paper summarises some of the available technical assistance programmes for the SADC region and their main focus. Finally, it proposes short, medium and long-term actions in the area of capacity building.

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